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Tactical Review: Real Madrid 2 - 1 Eibar; 2019 La Liga

Real Madrid CF v SD Eibar - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Karim Benzema’s brace helped Real Madrid record a victory against Eibar as they bounced back from their first loss, since Zidane returned, earlier in the week. Los Blancos contested a tight affair with the Basque club as they both struggled to create chances. The match was played at a relatively slow pace with little intensity until the second half when Zidane’s men increased their attacking tempo. This shift in offensive pressure was largely founded, initially, on a crossing scheme and then an effective counter-attacking approach.

Soccerway website

Zidane had made some notable introductions in the starting line-up. Reguilon’s name, in particular, was a welcome sight in the game sheet as the young Spaniard earned his first minutes under the French manager. Valverde made his first start under Zidane which provided a good opportunity to see more of the Uruguayan in action. The rest of the line-up was expected except for Nacho who filled in for Ramos – who was presumably being rested.

Real Madrid unsuccessfully try to bypass Eibar’s defensive line

The home side maintained a significant level of control during the opening phase of the match as they comfortably held possession while Eibar couldn’t compile any prolongued sequences with their time on the ball. However, offensive production was especially stale with the primary mechanism being utilized being attempted vertical deliveries (both direct through-balls and chipped passes) to forwards making runs. This tactic didn’t work very well due to failures in accurately executing passes.

In theory, it made sense to target Eibar’s adventurous defensive line which crept up to vulnerable levels several times.

Bale and Asensio’s speed would have allowed them to make dangerous runs and put them in favorable isolation and potentially goal scoring positions if they were found with well-timed passes. However, ball carriers in multiple situations couldn’t produce the quality required to find the runners. In the below example, Benzema misplaced a fairly straightforward pass to Bale.

When midfielders were able to execute passes, they were unfortunately written off due to marginal offside calls reinforcing that the team was lacking fortune and precision.

Eibar exploits midfield lapse in concentration to take the lead

Eibar scored the opening goal by exploiting an issue that has plagued the team throughout the season. The midfield’s defensive organization occasionally lacks discipline and is prone to disorientation which often results in costly mistakes.

In this particular sequence, the midfield trio (Valverde and Modric were the culprits), fail to adjust to mark Escalante who slips into a precarious open space in Real’s defensive third.

This initial mistake unsettled Real’s defensive shape but they’re able to recover adequately as Eibar don’t immediately capitalize on the space they have accessed. However, Escalante displays great awareness and guile to find Cardona who ghosts past Reguilon at the back post.

Real Madrid mount a comeback after switching to a cross-centric attack

Real Madrid made a deliberate switch a crossing game in the second half as they searched for an equalizer – jumping from five crosses in the first half to 13 (!) in the second half.

Whoscored website

This, compounded with their faster pace, created a much more favorable offensive dynamic than the first half. Bale and Benzema positioned themselves much more centrally to provide crossers with options in the box.

Furthermore, as Eibar receded slightly and defended in a deeper block, Real Madrid’s transition to crosses was partially influenced by how their opposition defended. The tactic didn’t take too long to pay dividends as Asensio delivered a beautifully lofted cross into the box which Benzema nodded home. The French striker would go on to double his tally in the 81st minute after an intricate corner set piece.

Real Madrid managed the game well from that point and could have scored more goals if not for some questionable finished as they counter-attacked a stretched and desperate Eibar.

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