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Tactical Review: Real Madrid 3 - 0 Athletic Bilbao; 2019 La Liga

Real Madrid CF v Athletic Club - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid played their 33rd match of the season against Athletic Bilbao as they sought to further cement their position in the top 3. Los Blancos played out a convincing 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu registering one of their best performances since Zidane’s return – which the manager himself acknowledged. The performance was propelled by a Benzema hat trick – the French man continues his scorching form in recent weeks as he notched his 21st goal of the La Liga season bringing him close to his best tally (24) which he reached in 2015-16. Benzema led the team forming a three man forward unit flanked by Asensio and Vazquez.

Soccerway website

The midfield was comprised of the standard Casemiro, Kroos, and Modric trio while Varane partnered with Vallejo in central defense. Marcelo and Carvajal were the selected fullbacks to start the game. The team was structured in a 4-1-4-1 shape with Kroos occupying a hybrid role by moving to support the base of the midfield frequently.

Left side dominance and offensive width

WhoScored website

Marcelo, Kroos, and Asensio combined very well in the first half in what emerged as a major theme of Real Madrid’s offensive scheme. The left side of the team had significant influence on the game as many of the more intricate attacking sequences flowed through that flank. Marcelo provided numerical support by driving into space to support Asensio and Kroos was quick to detect these runs and feed the Brazilian.

Once in space, Marcelo and Asensio used a combination of one-twos, overlaps, and through-balls to create more space for deliveries into the box. Marcelo also added to Real Madrid’s threat in the box by positioning himself near the edge of the area or moving further inward in order to meet potential crosses.

This dynamic was further enhanced when Benzema gravitated towards that side of the pitch. The striker’s presence was notable and further improved the quality and potency of interplay.

On the opposite flank, Carvajal also consistently supplied width by making overlapping runs and driving into space as much as possible. However, it wasn’t as successful due to the lack of connection between Vazquez and the fullback in the final third. Often times, the outcome of plays would be isolated situations where Vazquez or Carvajal were forced to beat a well-positioned defender with their cross.

End-to-end start to second half unlocks the game for Real Madrid

The second half kicked off with more intensity and energy going forward for both teams which led to an interesting exchange at the start. Kroos won the ball back and Benzema charged forward along with Asensio, Vazquez and Modric.

Benzema misplaced his pass and Athletic Bilbao immediately countered exploiting the over-exposure in Real Madrid’s midfield. This almost led to a goal if not for Cordoba’s poorly executed low drive to Williams.

Real Madrid moved the ball out quickly after recovering Cordoba’s delivery. Carvajal found Kroos who passed to Asensio. The latter made a fantastic cross that Benzema nodded in.

Real Madrid’s left side continued to shine following Benzema’s opener. Modric, who was in an advanced role throughout the match, operated with less positional confinement (laterally speaking) and even further boosted the left side’s capacity by creating lanes in that zone. Within minutes of the first goal, both Kroos and Marcelo were recipients of great passes that could’ve added to the home side’s lead with better finishing.

Understat website

As the game wore on, Athletic Bilbao became more and more stretched leaving themselves vulnerable to quick transitions. Benzema ultimately added another two through a header via a corner and a simple finish after the Atheltic GK was caught out of position.

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