clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Liverpool vs Real Madrid: A visual and analytical breakdown (Part 1)

Stats, vizzes, and details from an incredible win at Anfield

Liverpool FC v Real Madrid: Round of 16 Leg One - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Football is a game of fine margins. The result of the game can have variance and be influenced by factors beyond tactics and team setups, especially in knockout tournaments. If there is a team that understands this, especially at the European stage, it’s Real Madrid.

And that is what we saw on a magical night at Anfield on Tuesday.

We saw Real Madrid on the back-foot early on, lacking structure and shape, and already two goals down inside 15 minutes of the game. But they then pulled the rabbit out of the hat and ran out 2 - 5 winners by the end. Individual quality and randomness are two things largely looked over in football analysis and branded as being “lucky”. The “luck” in question here is also a ‘cultural edge’ that ‘Los Blancos’ have over everyone else in the tournament.

They know they can pull themselves out with their backs against the wall. They are chameleons tactically, they have two of the most press-resistant and press-breaking midfielders of all time in Toni Kroos and Luka Modric; but also have the legs in Fede Valverde, Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and Eduardo Camvinga to play on fast breaks. All of this together makes Real Madrid the perfect cup team at the elite level — and the 14 trophies speak for themselves.

This statement from Ernesto Valverde a while ago is very resounding to everything Real Madrid has managed to produce on the starry European nights.

But let’s look at some numbers from the game and try to dissect the chaos that ensued on the pitch at Anfield.

Game Flow

The first step will be to try and understand how the game panned out and which team had the upper hand in various phases of the game. Looking at the game flow or Expected Threat (xT) flow will help us understand which team dominated which period of the game.

Liverpool vs Real Madrid: Game flow chart

Liverpool were off to a scintillating start and were the dominant side in the opening exchanges and overall looked like the better side in the first half. Things changed in the second half, with Real Madrid being able to have dominant spells while neutralizing Liverpool’s threat and hurting them on the break. The early freekick goal in the second half via Eder Militao was enough to throw a spanner in the works for Liverpool and they never recovered from that. It wasn’t a game where either side displayed very large spells of dominant periods.

Overall, Real Madrid were able to accumulate an xG of 1.7 compared to 1.9 from Liverpool and managed to convert that into five goals. It wasn’t a straightforward dominant performance from either side, it was a game that had sloppy mistakes, poor decision making, lack of structure and some incredible individual magic from players.

Team Shape

The next step would be to look at the different team shapes utilized by teams in the game. While both teams were lined up in a 4-3-3, the execution of said formation can vary from team to team, and the way Ancelotti deployed it in this game was interesting.

Real Madrid were forced into an early change due to the injury to David Alaba in the 26th minute. The ever reliable Nacho came on to replace the Austrian. We will be looking at the longest stretch without a sub for both sides:

Liverpool vs Real Madrid: Team Pass Network

Looking at Liverpool’s pass network, the right sided connections become very clear. Under Klopp, the right sided combination and rotation between Salah, Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the major source of threat for them. The opening goal and large parts of their threat came down the right hand side and David Alaba struggled to initially deal with them. The young midfield starlet, Stefan Bajcetic, looked solid as the left-sided midfielder.

For Real Madrid the bright connections appear on the left hand side, as is usually the case. Vinicius was at the heart of making everything happen and Nacho supported the Brazilian really well. Real Madrid often dropped into a 4-5-1 shape against the ball, with wingers helping out the fullbacks in defending the wide areas while all three midfielders marshalled the central corridor.

Standout performers

Let’s look at some of the standout performers for Madrid in this game

Vinicius Jr

Vinicius Jr performance against Liverpool

There has been a lot of noise surrounding Vinicius in the last few weeks but despite that he continues to be an influential figure in the side. His impact by the sheer volume and the quality of actions he attempts that help Real Madrid progress higher up the field is unmatchable. He is relentless in his attempts to break down a team’s defence.

He is no longer a talent on the cusp of exploding but he is now a reliable superstar for Real Madrid who decides games on his own. He has a certain gravity about himself that teams commit bodies to defend against him.

Luka Modric

Luka Modric performance against Liverpool

Modric is a timeless magician. It’s difficult to keep a count of the number of times the Croatian has stepped up, grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck and pulled Real Madrid out of misery. The away leg of the semi-final tie against Atletico Madrid in 2016-17 and dealing with Liverpool’s intense pressure in the final in 2017-18 are just a couple of examples.

After a shaky start by Madrid, Modric decided it was time to levitate and so he did. His passing, ball carrying and defensive coverage belies his true age. He recorded the second most shot-creating actions among all Madrid players and grabbed an assist from a set-piece. The way he glides on the pitch and leaves the young players or players in their prime for dust is breathtaking to watch every single time.

Eduardo Camavinga

Eduardo Camvinga performance against Liverpool

Eduardo Camavinga started the game in midfield this time, unlike in the left-back position that he has had to fill in over the past month. Playing as the deepest midfielder, Camavinga didn’t start the game very well, being at the heart of some giveaways due to slipping, among other things, but didn’t look phased by it at all. He grew in stature and influence as the game went on and put on a very solid performance in the second half especially.

His amazing ability to provide coverage on the ground was on display and his all action nature saw him recover possession multiple times in front of defence. He didn’t shy away from the ball and frequently helped Madrid retain and circulate possession with his passing. His ability to claw back possession was on display as well.

Nacho Fernandez

Nacho performance against Liverpool

Nacho completed 300 appearances for Real Madrid against Liverpool and the performance epitomized his time at the club. The graduate from La Fabrica had to step in to replace David Alaba at left-back and he did so with no drop in quality.

Nacho has been such a reliable deputy across the backline and has played a vital part in every campaign in the last seasons. He provided a solid baseline defensively and added some value moving forwards from the fullback position. Jurgen Klopp was quick to attribute Nacho as the reason the right sided combination stopped working for Liverpool as the game went on. The Spaniard was assured defensively, dealing with everything thrown his way.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Managing Madrid Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Real Madrid news from Managing Madrid