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Analysing Real Madrid’s pressing against Real Sociedad

Real Madrid’s pressing saw signs of improvements against Real Sociedad. We analyze it with cautious optimism.

Real Madrid CF v Real Sociedad - La Liga Santander Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After the debacle in Paris, Carlo Ancelotti vowed to focus on pressing more. The couple of subsequent games after the first leg vs. PSG didn’t see any such improvement. The old patterns of Real Madrid’s dysfunctional press remained until La Real paid a visit to the Bernabeu right before the second leg vs. PSG.

After conceding a goal early in the game, Real Madrid responded well. This response translated into pressing higher up the pitch and winning the ball in dangerous locations. Real Madrid had a notable number of ball recoveries in La Real’s half. One of them actually led to a disallowed goal (thanks to the most marginal offside call ever). Real Madrid had pressed high before in this season but in this game, Madrid had been structurally better and more cohesive.

Efficient pressing doesn’t only mean an all-out approach to win the ball back. The structure at which you lose the ball and how fast can you get into a shape to give yourself the best chance to win the ball back is fundamental to a functional pressing scheme. Real Madrid showed some signs of this vs. Real Sociedad. More key aspects of it were discussed here by Matt, Om, and Kiyan after the Rayo game:

Real Madrid were able to deal with some of their ghosts of the (pressing) past vs. La Real. Firstly, the distance between their midfield line and the defensive line wasn’t drastic when pressing. Secondly, the anticipation to pick out passing outlets of the opponent and stationing of bodies around them to force long passes were executed well. The sequence below is a good demonstration:

Real Madrid has to play this well at a bare minimum to make the second leg vs. PSG a watchable experience, which the first leg was not.