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El Clasico Tactical Review: Modric, Iniesta and a nullified MSN

Monday 5th December 2016
In the 265th annual El Clásico, two heavyweights of World football did battle in front of a sold out Camp Nou. With an estimated half a billion people watching around the globe, the Spanish giants put on a show worthy of entertaining the World. Ronaldo, Messi, Benzema, Neymar, Suarez & Modrić all within the confinements of a 105 x 68m pitch, teased to produce moments of magic that would suspend belief.
Zidane named the same XI that demolished city rivals Atletico Madrid 3-0 but set them up in a 4-3-3 instead of a 4-2-3-1. Luis Enrique lined up in his usual 4-3-3, with Messi drifting in and Suarez hanging on to the shoulder of Ramos. Gomes and Rakitic in the middle would look to attack the space vacated by the Messi & Neymar.
Barcelona started the game with high intensity, looking to right the wrongs of their previous results. Real Madrid in response sat deep and compact, doubling up on the flanks. They covered all the passing lanes and suffocated MSN of any space in the final third. Los Blancos looked to counter attack with speed and precision down the flanks. They were willing to concede possession in order to find the right moment to strike. Real Madrid opted not to press but to sit, in order to keep their shape. They only looked to press when they sniffed the chance of a numerical overload down the flanks.
Luka Modrić in the middle of the park showed why he's still the most press-resistant CM on the planet, running the game from a single pivot role. He was the initiator of all Madrid attacks, his ability to beat Barcelona's first press freed up space for Isco to drift into and then continue the attack at speed. Modrić created more chances (3) than anyone else on the pitch.

Barcelona huffed and puffed in the first half, but despite being allowed to dominate the ball, they didn't have the creativity to dislodge a low-block Real Madrid defence. Andres Iniesta arriving in the second half showed us why he's still so influential to this team. His decision-making was one step ahead of the Madrid defence, sometimes even third-guessing their movements. His creativity drove Barcelona into the lead against a resolute defence that had not set a foot wrong.
In the last 20 minutes, the roles reversed, with Madrid pushing up and Barcelona looking to break on the counter. Both Real full-backs stationed themselves as wingers, while Ronaldo moved inwards as a striker and Vázquez drifted in and out. Barcelona couldn't handle the increased pressure, making sloppy mistakes and giving the ball away cheaply. Despite how open Madrid were, Barca was unable to capitalise on the counter. In the end, the pressure prevailed, Madrid forced fouls in compromising positions and the big-game player Sergio Ramos silenced the Camp Nou with another bullet header.
The scoreline and the manner of the result are a testament to Zidane and his incredible coaching. His Real Madrid team are now unbeaten in 33 games and have become the hardest team to beat in Europe. His team are showcasing incredible work ethic, organisation and resilience. Every single member of the team knows their role, gone are the days of an egotistical dominated style of play. Zinedine Zidane even has Cristiano Ronaldo tracking back into his own half. Look what he's done with fringe players like Vázquez and Asensio.

Did you know Real  Madrid haven't lost any of the last 20 games that Vázquez has started in. Who on earth needs Bale? Zidane got every aspect of this game right, his cautious approach may not be appreciated by the masses, but the league table does not lie. Six points clear with a sizeable goal difference means the Galácticos are in pole position to win the league this season. This wasn't a must-win for Real Madrid, it was a must-not-lose.
Mathaeus Abuwa

Arsenal fan with ample amounts of passion for both Cristiano Ronaldo & Real Madrid. I'm one of those bandwagonist hipster fans that will claim to know everything about football, but only watches the El Clasico outside of the Premier League. Forgive me, I'm trying. Oh yeah, #WengerOut. 


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