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Tactical Review: Real Madrid 3 - 7 Atletico Madrid; 2019 International Champions Cup

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Focusing on the first half — Real Madrid’s lack midfield presence, tactical disorganization, and Atletico’s strong press and energy lead to catastophic result for Zidane’s men.

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid shocked Real Madrid with a devastating 7-3 win against their foes in Los Blancos’ last game in the International Champions Cup. Real Madrid was coming into the game on the back of a loss and a win (draw in regulation) in their previous matches. Casemiro was still unavailable and Zidane selected the same midfield that started against Bayern but made a few changes to the rest of the line-up.

Soccerway website

Following Asensio’s injury, Vinicius was promoted to the starting eleven while Jovic also received the starting nod ahead of Benzema. Varane was relegated to the bench in favor of Nacho and Odriozola usurped Carvajal at the right back position. Atletico, for their part, included many of their major signings in their line-up with Joao Felix, Trippier, and Lodi all selected by Simeone to begin the match.

Aletico opened the scoring before a minute had elapsed. Lemar capitalized on a sloppy play by Odriozola to recover the ball before Atletico quickly worked it forward to Deigo Costa in the box. Although Ramos did well to usher the Atletico forward to a poor shooting position, Costa’s shot caught a favorable deflection and ended up in the back of the net. Lemar’s pressure on Odriozola signalled his team’s tactics.

Atletico employed a high powered counter-attacking strategy which carefully exploited Real Madrid’s disorganized and imbalanced high line. Morata was afforded another opportunity in the 4th minute as a result of this. Real Madrid’s vulnerable underbelly due to the lack of a genuine defensive presence (i.e. Casemiro) was further acerbated by the risky structural positioning of the team. Nacho and Ramos would radically move into Atletico’s half when in possession leaving themselves open to dissecting runs from the hungrier, and physically sharper (in appearance) Rojiblancos players.

Another peculiar aspect of Real Madrid’s defensive shape was the lack of lateral balance. The team would heavily shift to the side of the field where the ball was being played leaving the other flank completely exposed and open for Atletico to progress into. This continued a pattern of overall lack of coordination and synchronization in Real Madrid’s tactical framework. The team lacked discipline and understanding.

Atletico’s third goal was further evidence of this as the backline completely lost focus. Ramos, lacking better judgement, instinctively pounced on Koke who brought the ball down just on the edge of the box. Kroos was already there and Ramos moving out of position left Correa (coming on early for an injured Morata) alone. This wouldn’t have possibly been costly if Odriozola hadn’t stayed in no man’s land and moved up to join the defensive line. His failure to do so meant Correa was well onside.

Atletico Madrid put an exclamation mark on their dominance with their fourth goal. Ramos tried to chip a pass to Modric – sitting in a dangerous location just in front of the box facing goal -- but it was not very well hit. Saul intercepted the pass and immediately slipped the ball to Deigo Costa who clinically dispatched his second of the game.

Atletico’s energy began to wane around the half hour mark but the damage was already done. Real Madrid were four goals behind and Diego Simeone’s men sat back in a deeper block and with less intensity in their recovery play. As a result, Real Madrid began to develop some smoothness in their ball circulation as they displayed neat exchanges and even occasionally created interesting openings on the wings. The two teams traded barbs but ultimately it would be Atletico that scored again before the referee blew for half-time.

ESPN Soccer website

At this point, the match was effectively over and it was a matter of limiting the number of goals conceded while still giving time to other players for Zidane. The team would make a half-hearted comeback in the last 45 minutes “winning” the second half 3-2. Costa and Carvajal were sent off for getting into an altercation after the latter was fouled by the former. Overall, this was far from the encouraging ICC campaign fans would have hoped for. Adding the Bale drama to the team’s poor displays and seeming inferior physical state leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Madridistas from the club’s trip to the United States.