Going into this game after a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou, this game was evenly poised with everything to play for in the second leg. Let’s take a look at how both the team’s lineup initially before jumping into the tactical analysis.
Barcelona defended in a 4-4-2 system, Messi and Suarez as the forwards, Roberto playing as a narrow right midfielder with Dembele on the other side and Busquets and Rakitic in central midfield.
Real Madrid Formation
Real Madrid lined up in a 4-3-3, Casemiro, Modric and Kroos played as the midfield three, Reguilon started ahead of Marcelo, Vinicus, Benzema and Lucas Vazquez was the front three.
Barcelona controlled possession from the start of the game, and Madrid seemed pretty content to allow them to do this. When Busquets and Rakitic received the ball, Kroos and Modric would press aggressively as Casemiro sat behind in case of a ball bypassing those two. Roberto’s role was to drift wide when needed, but largely pick up a wide central midfield role, playing almost in a conventional three man midfield.
Roberto’s positioning did give Busquets a bit more time on the ball as Kroos became reluctant to press as high, fearing the space he would leave for Roberto. Despite controlling possession, unless on the odd ocasion when Messi picked up the ball, Barcelona struggled to transition the ball into the attacking third in the first 30 mins.
Real Madrid’s tactic was to counter quickly and exploit the lack of athleticism in the Barcelona midfield. As when the ball was won in their defensive third, they looked for long balls to the flanks for Vinicius or Vazquez. However this style of play resulted in a lot of turn overs, as Madrid gave the ball away and allowed Barcelona to sustain periods of pressure.
The biggest dangers for both sides came down the left. The dribbling ability of both Dembele and Vinicius was absolutely amazing, as both isolated Carvajal and Semedo respectively and were able to create chances through low crosses and pull backs. Madrid had two clear cut chances from this sort of play which Vinicius nor Benzema could take advantage of.
Madrid probably should have gone into the break leading but they failed to take their chances.
In the second half it was Dembele’s turn to cause havoc. His movement to draw Carvajal out of his Right Back position, created the space for him to use his pace to run into and this allowed him to pull the ball back for Suarez’s instinctive finish.
Real Madrid’s game plan changed after this, instead of looking for quick longer balls, they started playing through Kroos and Modric more and were able to sustain periods of pressure. This suited Barcelona who were able to counter into the space left by Madrid’s Centre midfielders and full backs which resulted in Casemiro and Ramos being isolated against Messi, Suarez or Dembele.
Barcelona were clinical, especially Dembele and Suarez whose weight of pass, movement and composure were all excellent and this resulted in Barcelona sealing the game by scoring three and putting Madrid out of the tie.
Dembele was the man of the match closely followed by Vinicius who had a similar sort of performance without the clinical finishing that Barcelona showed. Reguilon and Alba read the game well and Reguillon was a great attacking threat overlapping Vinicius.
Casemiro was poor, he failed to break up Barcelona’s counter attacks and was left flat footed when coming up against Dembele and Suarez in one on ones.
What does this mean for Saturday?
Solari should move to a midfield double pivot, Llorente and Casemiro probably, in order to close down the space left when Madrid lose the ball and enable the mdifielders to cover the width of the pitch and stop Dembele, Roberto, Alba and Semedo from breaking into this space, as Casemiro struggled to do the job on his own in this position.
Valverde will be confident but may look to transition play a bit quicker when Barcelona win the ball in order to use Dembele and Suarez to exploit the open Madrid defensive system.