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Champions League Game Analysis – Juventus v Real Madrid (2-1). An interesting in-depth look at contrasting 4-4-2 styles, high defensive lines and how Madrid failed to capitalize on the wings.
Juventus recently clinched their fourth consecutive Scudetto, but their recent European campaigns have been far from successful. This year, however, under the management of Massimiliano Allegri, they’ve managed to do far better than the Italian champions did under Conte, who left Juventus for the Italian national team during the summer.
Real Madrid, who won the Champions League last year, find themselves behind Barcelona in La Liga, but still within a good chance of defending their La Decima triumph of last year.
Allegri and Juventus are without Pogba, but are able to name a strong starting XI in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield and with Morata, playing Real Madrid for the first time since his move in the summer from the Spanish club, partnering Tevez.
Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid, however, find themselves with a bit of an injury crisis with the likes of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, both of whom would be certain starters, out. As he did in the second leg of the quarterfinal, Sergio Ramos was in midfield alongside Toni Kroos as Real Madrid played in a 4-4-2.
With both teams playing in a 4-4-2, but with different midfield setups, this game was always going to interesting in terms of theoretical tactics. As the g/ame went on, a lot of the theoretical match ups and issues for each side came about. One thing that every team that plays Juventus has to think about is what to do about Pirlo, who more often than not dictates Juventus’ play. Sometimes, teams stand off him and he is allowed to pull the strings with ease, while other times when he is pressed well, with Juventus’ matches against Dortmund being a good example, the Italian playmaker struggles to have an influence. With the way Real Madrid and Juventus were lining up, Pirlo was theoretically free. To limit his influence, Ancelotti made Bale drop from a forward position on to Pirlo, which had mixed results. At times, Bale was touch tight and Juventus were unable to play through Pirlo, but there were far too many times, from a Real Madrid perspective, that Pirlo was able to have time and space to play freely. The Italian playmaker was caught a few times on the ball, but neither led to true attempts on goal.
For Juventus, a question of defending in the wide areas and putting pressure on Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos was somewhat of a question. The midfield diamond obviously means that Juventus’ was narrow, but Marchisio and Sturaro would shuffle outside to help Lichtsteiner and Evra while Vidal mostly stuck to Toni Kroos, but would shift to Ramos at times. Tevez came important for Juventus in terms of overloading the middle third of the field both when Juventus were with and without the ball. When Juventus were forced to defend deep around their penalty area, the midfield diamond often became a flat midfield four with Pirlo and Vidal in the middle and Marchisio and Sturaro in the wide areas. Below is a good example of this and notice that Tevez and Morata are both out of the screen capture as they stayed high up the pitch. Tevez would only apply pressure and overload the middle when Real Madrid had the ball around the halfway line or when Juventus had the ball deep and he wanted to get into the space between the lines.
There were two different displays of high pressure defenses. Juventus tried to press Real Madrid early on in the game and it was relatively effective and put Real Madrid on the back foot for much of the opening stages, but for the large majority of the game, Juventus sat in a mid block, especially after they scored their opener. Real Madrid, however, looked to defend very high up the pitch. Interestingly enough, Real Madrid were not exactly pressing in a manner that one would expect with so many players defending high up the field. Many times, the Madrid players were three and four yards off a Juventus player, which allowed the home side to play the ball around the back with relative comfort despite Madrid having a number of players forward. Below is a good example of this as six Real Madrid players are in Juventus’ half with Pirlo on the ball just outside of the penalty area, but overall, the pressure is limited compared to what would be expected from a team defending with six players in the opposition’s half.
This commitment to defending high caused Real Madrid problems and played into Juventus’ plan a bit. The Italian side wanted these situations to happen as it allowed Tevez and Morata to find spaces easily and so Juventus were able to play directly into the two forwards, bypassing both their own midfield and Real Madrid’s, now high, midfield four (Juventus did this against Dortmund, another team that pressed them high, in the match that was linked above). An excellent example of this came very early on in the match. At around 2:45 into the match, Pirlo picks up the ball, plays a pass into Tevez’s feet that goes through the flat Real Madrid midfield and finds the Argentine in a huge amount of space as he dropped off Varane. Tevez then runs at the Real Madrid back line before finding Sturaro who hits a low shot to Casillas near post.