Osasuna vs Real Madrid

Another away game and more points dropped as Madrid continue to toil on their travels this season. The manner of the performance will concern Madridistas particularly with the forthcoming Champions League tie against Man Utd, a two-legged affair in a competition which Madrid are now more or less basing their entire season around, the quest for la decima.
A game which had minimal quality on display. Chances were at a premium with just three shots on target in the entire game.
Normally a visit from the reigning champions would result in a capacity crowd for the home side. And when the reigning champions are struggling to recapture their best form and the likelihood of an upset is on the cards, you expect the sold out signs to be swiftly positioned.
But this is La Liga where nothing is ever that simple.
The cheapest ticket available was €90 and there were plenty of available seats. With clubs such as Osasuna receiving the scraps from the television table of Barcelona and Real Madrid, the visit of either of the big two is milked for all it’s worth with fans suffering a substantial hike in entry prices.
A more equitable distribution of TV money is not a panacea for all of the financial ills of La Liga. But it would be an important step in the right direction.
Osasuna Defence
Sitting bottom of the table with just 14 points from their 18 league games this season, it’s strange to find yourself speaking positively about the Osasuna defence. Yet, their goal difference is a lowly -6. Only Atleti, Barcelona and Malaga have conceded fewer goals than Osasuna this season.
As ever with a team coached by Mendilibar,  Osasuna play a very aggressive offside trap, seeking to hold a high line and press their opponents deep into their half of the pitch. Madrid were caught offside eight times during the game as they eschewed a patient passing build up to their attacks in favour of a direct approach despite Ronaldo missing the game through suspension. Poorly timed runs coinciding with delayed passes meant the Osasuna offside trap worked very well for the majority of the game. When Madrid did break through, the opportunities were either wide or Andres Fernandez came rushing from his goal to clear, sometimes rather too impetuously.
The problem for Osasuna arrives at the other end. No other team has scored fewer goals than the men from Pamplona.
It’s a strange blend. The high defensive line enables a team to become a very compact unit but this is juxtaposed with the style they have in attack. Adopting a direct approach and favouring long balls, the side really needs a strong target man. Last season, that man arrived in the form of Lekic with Raul Garcia just behind him. Their departures have severely affected Osasuna and the game plan is no longer as effective.
The defence will hold firm for the remainder of the season but if the goals do not begin arriving, Osasuna will drop into La Segunda.
Luka Modric
It’s a little sympathetic to say the jury remains out on the performance of Luka Modric since he joined los blancos from Spurs. With opinion polls in the local media rating him the worst acquisition of the season, Modric has struggled badly to capture any semblance of his previous form. This may in part be due to his role within the team not yet being defined. Is he the long term successor to Xabi Alonso in a deep lying playmaker role? Or is he to be deployed in an attacking midfield role, the central point of the attacking trident?
Last night Modric deputised for Mesut Ozil. The German internationalist has created 52 chances this season, second only to Malaga’s Joaquin with 55 chances created to his name. Modric was replaced by Ozil after 67 minutes again leading to the question of why he is struggling to adapt to life in the Spanish capital.
Modric is arguably a better technical player than Ozil with a greater range of passing. The problem is that’s not the sort of player Madrid need for the current system. Madrid need a player like Ozil who will drift laterally across the pitch, locating and exploiting pockets of space. Taking the position of the inverted winger who has moved centrally.
The graphic below shows Modric passes during the game.
Modric Passes vs Osasuna

Modric Passes vs Osasuna                          http://www.squawka.com

The Croatian was successful for 17 of his 24 attempted passes but too often he was deep. He had little impact whatsoever on the game. This was another opportunity for Modric that he failed to grasp.
The Madrid Approach
Part of the problem for Modric is that Madrid were far too direct last night. Being pressed by an aggressive opponent, Madrid resorted to fighting fire with fire and indulged in a long ball game at times. Los Blancos were successful with just 196 passes from an attempted 336. A pass completion rate of only 58%.
One of the poorest performers on the night both in terms of passing and his overall play was Raul Albiol:-
Albiol Passes vs Osasuna

Albiol Passes vs Osasuna                       http://www.squawka.com

Albiol hit a number of long clearances upfield which were swiftly returned by Osasuna. With the game being squeezed, Madrid took the easy option and launched the ball.
Madrid often sat very deep with a low block, encouraging Osasuna to come forward in the hope of then quickly countering on a transition. It’s a very simple game plan and fails to utilise the skill set of the players within the team. Quite simply, Madrid have much better players than Osasuna. Match the workrate and determination of the opponent and it provides the platform for your technical superiority to shine. Madrid failed to do so.
The dismissal of Kaka for two cautions, the second one somewhat farcical for a player of his experience, in the final  15 minuites of the game had little effect as the game drifted towards stalemate.
With just one victory in their last four visits to the Reyno de Navarra, last season’s comprehensive 5-1 thrashing of Osasuna, Madrid knew they would be involved in a tough encounter but the lack of guile within their game was very surprising.
Only two teams who were bottom of La Liga in the past ten seasons at the halfway stage have avoided relegation. Real Zaragoza and Osasuna. For Osasuna, whilst it’s a point gained in their relegation battle, Mendilibar must be thinking that come the end of the season, this game may represent two points dropped particularly if lightning fails to strike twice.

Real Madrid vs Dortmund

An excellent and hard fought 2-2 draw was played out at Santiago Bernabeu between the reigning Spanish and German Champions. This was the much clichéd game of two half’s with Dortmund being in the ascendency during the opening period of the game before Madrid took control and completely dominated the second half.

The game started at a very high tempo particularly by Madrid who made a number of early attempts to get in behind the high Dortmund defence with long diagonal passes. When the game began to settle down around the 10th minute, a number of issues were becoming more prevalent.

Real Madrid Defence

Dortmund were using Lewandowski as a central target to play off, exploiting the space between the Madrid defence and midfield on fast transitions. Twice in the opening stages, Dortmund moved down their left on quick breaks with Casillas saving from Schmelzer in the 8th minute

It was notable how Di Maria temporarily adopted a slightly deeper defensive position on the right, aware of the problems which Ramos was encountering in the right back position.

Without Khedira alongside him, Alonso was being pressed and playing slightly higher providing the gap between defence and midfield which Dortmund were aiming to exploit with forward running from the midfield area.

The opening goal was an example of confusion in the Madrid defence and space behind the full backs.

Following a period of possession by Dortmund, the ball was moved backwards before a long ball was aimed towards Lewandowski who had pulled onto Varane. Pepe moved from left centre back to challenge but lost out to the Pole who flicked the ball onto the forward moving Reus who had ran off Arbeloa. Had Pepe not moved across, he would have been in position to challenge Reus.

The second Dortmund goal again exploited space behind the full back, this occasion it was on the left and behind Ramos. Again, a long ball was won in the air by Lewandowski and Grosskreutz moved into space behind Ramos before passing through to Gotze. Arbeloa unfortunately made the final touch, prodding the ball beyond Casillas.

By contrast, Dortmund were holding a high line with the midfield sitting just in front, preventing any space from developing between the lines and reducing the impact of Ozil. With coordinated pressing when Madrid reached the halfway line, the defence could push high. Madrid contributed to their own downfall by becoming too vertical and playing too many forward passes.

The one significant defensive error which Dortmund committed in the first half enabled Pepe to score the first equalising goal. The Germans failing to clear a corner adequately and Pepe powerfully headed home from the second cross.

Tempo

The fast tempo of the game with the emphasis on transitions suited Dortmund who were able to press Madrid aggressively and play on the counter attack. Dortmund are well known for playing a high energy style of football with a young team capable of sustaining such an approach for the full duration of a game.

With aggressive pressing and Madrid playing directly, Dortmund were able to maintain their high defensive line. Madrid needed to slow the game down and force their style of play onto the Bundesliga Champions. By constructing moves patiently, Madrid would be able to force Dortmund deeper.

Taking that into consideration, the starting line up from Madrid was perhaps slightly unexpected. With Dortmund bringing a physical game in terms of effort, it would surely have made more sense for Mourinho to begin the game with Essien supporting Alonso in a deep midfield role?

Essien is not renowned for quick passing either and would have slowed the tempo of the game.

Khedira Out – The Modric or Essien Dilemma

The changes which Mourinho made at half time were somewhat inevitable. Higuain was withdrawn even though he should have been removed much earlier when it became apparent that a hamstring injury had rendered him ineffective, reducing his mobility considerably. Callejon immediately offered more movement than Higuain.

The second change saw Essien replace Modric and slot into central midfield. This switch should arguably have been undertaken in the original team selection.

These changes allowed Madrid to completely dominate their opponents.

Modric has the potential to be a fine player for Madrid. Intelligent, creative and with a great range of passing, he will progress to become an asset. At this stage of his Madrid career, there are still, understandably, teething issues. Despite having a high pass completion rate of 87% (completing 33 from 38 passes) during his 45 minutes on the pitch, Modric may need to temper his tendency to seek forward passes. Arriving from the Premiership were the pace of the game is greater and much more vertical, a slight adjustment in style is needed to strike a balance between a vertical approach and more lateral passing to stretch opponents.

This is what Essien offered in the second half. With a pass completion rate of 83% (30 passes from 36 completed), the Ghanian was more content to slow the game down and stretch Dortmund with lateral passing.

Slower passing enable Madrid to move up the pitch as a unit and combined with the increased movement from Callejon, this forced Dortmund further back. The graphics below show Dortmund’s back four becoming tighter and the midfield moving closer together as they defended more.

Dortmund Average Positions 1st Half http://www.uefa.com

Dortmund Average Positions 2nd Half http://www.uefa.com

One slight concern for Madrid though was how narrow they became at times with Callejon and Di Maria cutting in from the left and right respectively. The width had to arrive from full back but Arbeloa is a naturally conservative full back and the marauding runs of Ramos were curtailed by the events of the first half.

Despite Madrid dominating possession, the equalising goal almost never arrived. In the 89th minute Ozil scored a lovely goal from a free kick to draw the game level. Questions may be asked over Weidenfeller as he appeared cumbersome as he moved across towards the ball. The free kick was positioned perfectly in the corner but the precision came at the cost of pace. The outcome was entirely deserved and a reward was the more patient probing which Madrid showed during the second half.

The result leaves the group delicately poised. Dortmund now have a home game against Ajax whilst Madrid travel to the Etihad to face Man City in a game which both teams need points for differing reasons.Madrid have the safety of their final group game being at home against Ajax should there be an upset at the Etihad. And that is what it would be if Man City somehow managed to overcome Madrid.

Madrid will quality from the group but perhaps not in 1st position which could lead to a more awkward opponent in the last 16 of the competition. Mourinho would quickly point out however, that on the two occasions he has led teams to Champions League success, they finished second in the group stage.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid

When the fixture list was announced, it is likely that Mourinho would have highlighted the away trip to face Joaquin Caparros’ Mallorca side an as awkward away fixture, particularly as it arrived immediately following a tough Champions League appointment away to Borussia Dortmund.

Having suffered four defeats in seven away games in all competitions this season, this game should have presented some questions for Madrid and Mourinho to answer.

What Mourinho would not have expected would be an insipid display from the hosts which enabled Madrid to win comfortably whilst performing well within their normal capabilities.

Madrid cruised to a 5-0 away victory and the concern over fatigue both physical and mental never arose.

Madrid Set Up and Mallorca Approach

With three full backs still missing, Essien was again forced to deputise at left back.

And, as against Dortmund , Mallorca targeted the Ghanian by focussing their attack in the first half almost exclusively down the Real Madrid left. The graphic below clearly illustrates this:-

Mallorca 1st Half Passes vs Madrid                         http://www.squawka.com

Mallorca repeatedly played passes towards their right wing. Initially Nsue started on the right and attacked Essien but all too often the attack broke down. Xabi Alonso moved slightly to the left to provide support to Essien but Mallorca failed to take advantage of any potential openings which did come their way. A more direct approach should have been adopted to try and isolate Essien quickly especially as he sometimes drifts into the centre which is to be expected as he is a central midfielder but too often the play from Mallorca was laboured.

The final pass lacked quality whilst many attacks broke down through poor decision making. Mallorca ‘s best opportunity arose from a misplaced cross from Nsue which Casillas tipped over. Ironically, this came from an attack down the left flank. Despite Madrid being below their best, Mallorca never placed their opponents under any sustained pressure. The tempo of the game was seldom lifted by the hosts.

This was definitely not a normal performance from a team managed by Caparros.

Defensive Fragility

When playing either Real Madrid or Barcelona , there are two key points which lesser opponents much adhere to. Don’t concede cheap goals and don’t concede early.

Mallorca conspired to do both, finding themselves two goals behind after just 21 minutes and the game was effectively over as a contest.

The opening goal arose when Conceicao needlessly gave away possession. Real Madrid gathered the loose ball and a pass was flicked through towards Higuain. Conceicao had regained his position well and was ideally placed to intercept the ball. Yet in his attempt to control the ball, he somehow managed to allow the ball to break off his thigh and into the path of Higuain who gratefully accepted this gift and scored the opening goal.

The second goal was just as bad from a Mallorca perspective. Fontas was pressed and conceded possession just outside the penalty area. Now out of position, he was easily beaten and the ball was quickly worked to the opposite side of the penalty area before Ronald drilled a shot low into the corner of the net.

This was Ronaldo’s 14th goal in the last 8 games and, incredibly, he now has an outrageous 164 goals in 157 games for Real Madrid.

In the second half following Mourinho’s appearance in the technical area when he demonstrated his displeasure with the level of performance, Madrid stepped up the intensity of their play and scored a further three goals. Their passing and movement was much sharper now and a lethargic Mallorca simply could not compete.

Modric or Khedira?

Following a recurrence of his hamstring injury during the game in Dortmund , Sami Khedira was replaced in the starting line up by Luka Modric who started in central midfield alongside Alonso.

Khedira is often criticised yet when he is not in the Madrid team, it is easy to identify what he brings to the side. There was a lack of urgency about Madrid early on. They lacked the dynamism and industry which Khedira adds to the side. He may be one of the less glamorous players within the side, but his role is an essential part for the Madrid machine to function correctly.

The differences between both players statistically is not that substantial and is broadly what you would expect. Modric play more passes and with a greater degree of accuracy whereas Khedira excels at the more defensive side of the game, making tackles and closing opponents down.

With Modric still adjusting to life at Madrid and the requirements of him, the midfield was unable to function as intended particularly in the first half. Despite a very high pass completion rate, Modric was not involved as heavily as he would have liked. His pass statistics for the game as a whole are shown below:-

Modric Passes vs Mallorca                                                     http://www.squawka.com

Modric became more involved as the game progressed and with hindsight, perhaps this was the perfect opportunity to embed himself within the Madrid system. Mallorca offered no challenge and Modric was able to find his feet and begin the process of adaptation.

Modric operated ahead of Alonso and behind Ozil, able to move laterally as well in an effort to build play together. Once he fully adjusts to Madrid, the diminutive Croatian should prove his worth.

Conclusions

Joaquin Caparros was clearly animated in the technical area for the majority of the game. Afterwards he spoke of Mallorca playing with no “intensity” and playing as if it was a “tribute match”.

The defeat makes it four straight defeats in a row now for the Islanders with Barcelona waiting in their next home fixture. What began promisingly with an early season run of good form is now becoming a serious issue which Caparros needs to turn round.

Whilst Mourinho was clearly displeased with the performance early in the second half, he will be content with an easy game which never asked any questions of his side. A difficult, physical encounter could have posed questions on the back if the Champions League game. Madrid now has their first back to back clean sheets in La Liga this season.

A professional, almost perfunctory, performance from Madrid . They did what was necessary to leave with the points secured whilst conserving themselves for the tougher challenges which lie ahead.

All graphics and statistics taken from www.squawka.com

Sevilla vs Real Madrid: Tactical Analysis

Real Madrid arrived at the Sanchez Pizjuan in the unusual position of being below Sevilla in La Liga. They remained below their hosts as they departed too with a 1-0 defeat condemning the Madrid side to their worst league start in over a decade.

On their two previous visits, the title holders had emphatically defeated their host’s with comprehensive 6-2 victories yet the Andalusian team displayed an intensity and workrate for the whole game which Madrid failed to match and as a result were unable to impose themselves.

Line Ups

Michel made one change from the side which drew 0-0 away to Rayo Vallecano prior to the international break.

Manu was removed from the team to be replaced by Maduro, a clear indication of the need for increased defensive stability from Sevilla.

Sevilla Starting Line Up

Mourinho started with the anticipated side. Marcelo continues at left back in place of the suspended Coentrao. Modric started on the bench once more.

Real Madrid Starting Line Up

The Madrid shape was their customary 4-2-3-1 with Higuain once more preferred to Benzema as the lone striker.

Sevilla Approach

From the opening minutes of this game, it was apparent how Sevilla were going to play. Their approach was going to be fast, direct and in the face of their opponents. The passing statistics bear witness to this approach. Sevilla made 241 successful passes from an attempted 361 passes. With pass accuracy of just 66% and overall possession of just 42%. Sevilla did not require possession to hurt Madrid. They retained shape, competed and sought Negredo and the increasingly important Navas for penetration at the earliest opportunity.

Sevilla set up in a 4-2-3-1 with some important points to note. The “2” stayed very central and close to the centre backs, Maduro playing deeper than Medel.

Upfield, Rakitic was deployed centrally with Trochowski very narrow on the left and supporting his colleague in the centre. This contrasted sharply with Jesus Navas on the right who provided width and pace with the intention of supporting Negredo in the striking role.

The full backs adopted similar roles. Cicinho looked to get forward and support Navas whereas Navarro stayed deep, aware that he had no direct cover in front of him.

The early part of the game was punctured with fouls, there was 14 in the opening 30 minutes. This stop start nature suited Sevilla as it prevented Madrid from finding any semblance of fluency in their play and it continued for much of the game although the number of fouls committed tailed off.

Sevilla Fouls vs Real Madrid                                                     http://www.squawka.com

The fouls were also being committed high up the pitch, away from the Sevilla penalty area. The rojiblancos were holding a relatively high line and squeezing the play in the centre of the pitch, suffocating their opponents. Ronaldo only had two opportunities to shoot at goal from a free kick during the game.

In the opening 25minutes of the match, Ronaldo, Higuain and Ozil were all fouled in aerial challenges around the halfway line. Sevilla had laid down a marker.

Sevilla collected three cautions, two of which were for fouls committed in their opponents half of the pitch. The third yellow card arose from the confrontation between Navarro and Higuain.

The Goal

The only goal of the game was scored in the 1st minute. Sevilla had begun the game at a very high tempo and Casillas had already been called into action before the home side gained the first corner of the match. With some atrocious defending, the ball was allowed to drop in the centre of the penalty area around 8 yards out where the oncoming Trochowski met it on the half volley. Higuain was supposed to be marking Trochowski but allowed his opponent to run off him.

Madrid Problems

Madrid allowed themselves to get drawn into a scrap with Sevilla instead of focussing upon building the play. Despite having 58% possession, Madrid only made 466 successful passes from an attempted 576. With just 80% pass accuracy, los blancos were not passing the ball enough and too often passing was sloppy and misplaced. Everything was rushed and increasingly they went long and to the wings, unable to pick their way through the centre of the pitch. Madrid made 38 successful long passes but a further 28 attempted long passes were unsuccessful.

Madrid seemed to be troubled by the intensity of the Sevilla play and the starting line up could be questioned. With the oft quoted “FIFA Virus” brought into vogue following the international break, should Mourinho have rotated the team?

Di Maria and Ozil looked well off the pace. Of course, when it comes to rotation, Mourinho is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Rotate the team and suffer defeat and he would have been lambasted for not selecting his strongest team.

Despite Sevilla adopting a relatively high offside line, Madrid seldom tested this with forward runs and through balls were in short supply:-

Real Madrid Through Balls vs Sevilla                                   http://www.squawka.com

Xabi Alonso

The Sevilla midfield pairing of Trochoski, but principally Rakitic, worked extremely hard to close Xabi Alonso down and prevent him from constructing play from Madrid.

Teams in the past have demonstrated that Madrid are much less of an attacking threat if you can reduce the effectiveness of Alonso. It’s the Basque playmaker who knits the play together for Madrid. Without him, the team can sometimes appear broken, split into a defensive and an offensive unit. Alonso binds them together. It’s the main reason that firstly Sahin and now Modric was acquired. To provide an alternative to Alonso whom Madrid rely heavily upon and reduce his burden.

Xabi Alonso Passes vs Sevilla                                                http://www.squawka.com

Alonso was operating deep and made only 72 passes during the game. With the central area of the pitch clogged by Sevilla, Alonso was forced to go wide with his passing. HIs lack of mobility is also an issue and whilst his defensive performance was still sound, he could not instigate sufficient levels of creative play for Madrid.

Substitutions

Mourinho made two substitutions at half time with the removal of the ineffective Di Maria and Ozil, replaced by Benzema and Modric.

The introduction of Modric saw Madrid revert to a 4-3-3 with a midfield trio of Alonso, Khedira and Modric. This should have provided Madrid with the strength and craft to meet and surpass the challenge from Sevilla. For a brief spell after half time, Modric was making passes and linking play well but it soon fell away.

Modric Passes vs Sevilla                                                             http://www.squawka.com

Similar to Alonso above, too much of Modric’s work was in relatively deep areas and not in an advanced area of the pitch. When Rakitic was replaced with Manu, the space Modric was enjoying as his fellow Croatian tired, was removed.

Michel made three substitutions in the second half, all of which were reactionary to those made by his opposite number.

Michel’s first substitution saw Manu come on for the tiring, and already cautioned, Rakitic to fulfil the same role – pack the centre of the pitch and disrupt Madrid.

Mourinho made his final substitution in the 65th minute when Arbeloa was withdrawn and Callejon entered. This switch required Khedira to become an auxiliary right back and Callejon playing on the right wing. Mourinho would have been comfortable with such a move given that Trochowski had operated so centrally during the game and Sevilla had offered little attacking threat from the left.

Michel made yet another reactive substitution to counter this just 4 minutes later. Negredo was replaced by the left sided defender Luna. Manu now occupied the striking berth with Trochowski in the centre and Luna moved across to the left to provide support for Navarro against Callejon.

Sevilla’s final change was the replacement of Trochowski with Kondogbia in the 81st minute as Michel took the “what we have, we hold” approach, strengthening the centre of the pitch in anticipation of one last push from Madrid which never quite materialised.

Mourinho’s Criticism

Following the game, Jose Mourinho was scathing in his post match criticism of the side.

In response to the poor first half showing, Mourinho confirmed he “only changed two early in the game” but wanted to “change seven”

Perhaps what will concern the Madrid faithful more than anything is his assertion that:-

“What worries me most is that right now … I don’t have a team”

Yet whilst Mourinho was highly critical, he did not exclude himself from that noting that there was “not a lot of players with their heads in their work, that’s my fault”

With an important Champions League game against Man City in midweek, Madrid need to bounce back quickly to prevent the poor form descending into a crisis.

Conclusion

A well deserved victory for Sevilla as they stop a run of seven consecutive defeats to Madrid in all competitions and secure their first league victory since a 2-1 success in October 2009. They retain their undefeated record in the league but the commitment and workrate shown by his players will arguably be the most pleasing aspect for Michel. There are signs that Sevilla are once more moving in the correct direction after a few disappointing seasons.

For Madrid, a 17 league game unbeaten run away from home has ended with successive away defeats.

There is not time for the players to sulk as they have an important Champions League tie against Manchester City awaiting. It’s difficult to envisage Madrid playing so poorly once more but there does appear to be a certain lethargy about the squad. Should this persist, it may raise questions about the pre-season tour in the USA.