Alaves returned from the quarantine period in terrible form. They lost 2-0 away at Espanyol, 6-0 away to Celta de Vigo, 0-1 at home to Osasuna, 2-1 away to Atletico Madrid and 2-0 at home to Granada. Their only win came at home against a struggling Real Sociedad side. Alaves has lost over 70 percent of their away matches this season and will face Real Madrid in the Estadio Alfredo DiStefano on July 8. Real Madrid beat Alaves at the Estadio de Mendizorroza 2-1 on November 30, in an earlier matchup between these two sides, with goals from Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal.
In the two matches before their trip to Madrid, Alaves played Atletico de Madrid and Granada. Asier Garitano did not start key attackers Lucas Perez and Joselu against Atleti but did start them against Granada. It is likely he did this to keep his star men fresh for more winnable matches. Alaves takes on Real Valladolid in their match after Real Madrid, therefore, Garitano may decide to line up as he did against Atleti, resting some key players.
Alaves lined up in a very defensive scheme against Atleti and will likely set up similarly against Real Madrid.
When Atleti had the ball in their own half and in the middle of the field, Alaves lined up in a 4-5-1 formation. One of the midfielders or strikers would sprint to press the ball and would quickly drop into position when the ball carrier passed. As Atleti progressed into the final third, Alaves would shift into a 6-3-1 in defense. Members of the six-man backline would do the same as the midfielders and strikers in the 4-5-1, closing down opposing players when they were about to receive a pass.
When the opposition had the ball outside of the final third there was a lot of space in the midfield to exploit. But as soon as Atleti progressed into Alaves’s defensive line, the middle of the park was extremely congested and the six-man backline was very organized.
Before the match against Atleti, Alaves had already conceded 10 set piece goals. The Basque team was atrocious at defending set pieces on the day and allowed a multitude of free headers. They were eventually punished and Atleti went up 1-0. Diego Costa scored a penalty to make it 2-0 before substitute Joselu scored one of his own in the dying minutes of the match. The likes of Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema, with the quality service from Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, could really capitalize from set pieces around the area.
Defensive set up
Garitano’s defensive set-up will most likely be countered by Real Madrid with an aggressively attacking 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 we saw against Mallorca. Both of these formations will be equipped to exploit the weaknesses of the Alaves defense.
When Alaves turned the ball over in their offensive half they struggled at times with transition defense. The space in the midfield leaves them susceptible to line-breaking passes and the wings can be exploited. If Zidane starts pacey wingers like Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes, they will have plenty of space to run in behind the backline.
Against Atleti, Alaves attempted to counter-press when they lost the ball in their offensive third. The press was not well executed and the midfield of Real Madrid should have no problem taking multiple defenders out of the picture with a few good passes.
When Alaves have the ball, their defensive line shifts to a back-three, the wing-backs push forward and one of the center backs move into the defensive midfield role. The Basque team struggles scoring away from home but will look to counter quickly and release the striker down the right side of the field. They will try to take advantage of Real Madrid’s offensive-minded fullbacks and the space they leave behind them. The most consistent form of attac, against Atletico, was the long ball down the right and a cut-back to the top of the box. Overall, it was relatively ineffective and Alaves were toothless in attack.
Garitano’s men struggle away from home, are terrible defending set pieces and against Atleti they did not display attacking prowess. But they were very solid defensively against Atleti despite the 2-1 loss. Real Madrid will look to get many players forward in attack to break down the Basque defense but must be wary of leaving themselves vulnerable to the counter.