Real Madrid – Sevilla: Madrid Overwhelm Toothless Sevilla Thanks To High Intensity Play And A Flurry Of Long Shots (2-0)
Real Madrid played with an unmatchable intensity in the first half, but created little against an organized and disciplined Sevilla defense. Not much changed in the next forty-five minutes except for the volume of Madrid’s long shots, which proved to be enough to push Solari’s men over the line.
Tactical analysis and match report by Om Arvind.
It is no secret that Santiago Solari‘s Real Madrid have struggled immensely this season, falling off in all their underlying numbers since Lopetegui’s departure. However, against Real Betis, there was a sign of some increasing competence from the coach and the team, sparking hopes that a turnaround was on the horizon.
By contrast, Sevilla have begun to slow down in recent games. Prior to their encounter with Real Madrid, they had only won one of their last five matches. They lost to Athletic Bilbao in back-to-back Copa del Rey and league meetings and drew with Atlético Madrid and Leganés 1-1. Their only victory came against Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Copa del Rey round of sixteen.
If we exclude cup competitions and go further back in the league, it still does not look good for Sevilla. They recorded a 2-0 victory over Valencia but only managed to split the points versus Alavés and Valencia. Nevertheless, Machín probably harbored some hope of gaining a result at the Santiago Bernabéu, especially given Real Madrid’s current injury crisis.
The predictive model had a lot of faith in Real Madrid going into this match, mainly based on Sevilla’s wobbly defensive numbers.
Keylor Navas, Jesús Vallejo, Marcos Llorente, Toni Kroos, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, and Mariano Díaz were all out of contention, forcing Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois into the lineup despite both players nursing injuries of their own. With those two in the team, Madrid were still able to field a strong eleven. Luka Modrić, Dani Ceballos, and Casemiro played in midfield, ahead of world class center backs Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane.
Sevilla were only missing defensive midfielder Maxime Gonalons and winger Nolito – both long-term absences that Sevilla manager Pablo Machín has had to deal with since the beginning of the season. As a result, he was able to pick what he believed was his strongest lineup in his usual 5-3-2 / 3-5-2 formation.
Jesús Navas and Sergio Escudero were chosen as wing-backs, while playmaker Éver Banega anchored a midfield behind strikers André Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder.
Real Madrid start the game with an unbelievable level of intensity
Understanding that Sevilla would be his toughest test yet, Solari fired up his team and ordered them to play at a high-octane pace. As soon as the whistle touched Mateu Lahoz’s lips, Real Madrid were first to every loose ball, won every fifty-fifty challenge, and dominated possession.
Sevilla could not cope and looked incredibly shaky in the opening exchanges. Their standard direct approach was failing miserably, as Ramos and Varane swallowed every vertical pass into strikers Silva and Ben Yedder. On top of that, Madrid’s forwards, fullbacks, and midfielders counterpressed in an extremely ball-oriented fashion, giving the player in possession no time to breathe.
Real Madrid’s ball-oriented counterpressing stifling Sevilla’s buildup.
Banega suffered more than any other Sevilla player, as he was dispossessed five times and was responsible for almost all of Madrid’s best chances. In the fifth minute, he lost the ball to Modrić, before Benzema slipped Vinícius Júnior in-behind the defense. The young winger fired off a shot from an angle and failed to adequately work the keeper.
Real Madrid’s intensity naturally fades away and a stalemate ensues
As one might have expected, Madrid were not able to keep up their insane energy levels for more than fifteen to twenty minutes. Soon after the intensity dropped, Sevilla avoided the counterpress for the first time and flooded upfield, providing Sergio Escudero with a one-versus-one opportunity from the left-hand side of the box. Courtois spread himself well and the left wing-back could only place his effort into the side netting.
The chance sparked somewhat of a comeback from Machín’s men. A couple minutes after that chance, Silva finally received a pass into his feet and whipped the ball out wide to the right. He managed to get his head on the ensuing cross, though it hardly troubled Courtois.
From then on, both teams created very little of note. Madrid tried a couple shots from range and from difficult angles inside the box, while Sevilla continued to be unnecessarily sloppy with the ball.
Sevilla operated from a very deep stance and mostly used a direct approach to bring the ball up the pitch.
Real Madrid come out of the tunnel with increased energy and a new strategy
Under Solari, Real Madrid have struggled to create offensive patterns more than anything, leading to a decrease in passes completed near the opposition goal and a decrease in shot volume. More and more, Solari has asked his attackers to dribble their way past the opposition and initiate one-two combinations against superior numbers, which is why Vinícius has become such a key player of late.
At half-time, Solari decided to abandon all pretense of an organized attacking scheme and simply asked his players to shoot on sight.
Though these were all shots with little chance of going in, Real Madrid attempted enough shots from outside the box to earn a goal. In all, Madrid attempted sixteen shots in the second half – up from six in the first – nine of which came from outside the box. Seven shots came inside the box; three were blocked, one was a Vinícius attempt from an impossible angle, and two others were difficult Casemiro headers. The only high-quality chance came from Modrić, which we will get to later.
Some credit must be given to Sevilla, of course, for the incredible job they did to force Madrid into such low percentage efforts. Center backs Simon Kjær, Daniel Carriço, and Sergi Gómez, repeatedly blew up Madrid’s dribbling actions and one-two plays, and combined to manage twenty clearances, fifteen interceptions, and nine tackles.
The very advanced stance by the whole team illustrates how aggressive Real Madrid’s positioning and pressure were for most of the game.
Casemiro becomes Casehero
It looked like Sevilla’s efforts would be enough to hold onto a 0-0 draw, which was surely what Machín and his team were playing for at that point. They had hardly managed to progress into Madrid’s half in the second period of play and seemed content to sit in a low block A low block refers to a team that retreats deep in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents around their own box. and frustrate the opposition.
Sevilla’s very deep block versus Real Madrid’s attack.
Consequently, forwards Ben Yedder and Silva only managed to touch the ball a combined seventeen times before they were replaced by Quincy Promes and Munir El Haddadi, respectively.
Unfortunately for Machín, he was eventually made to pay for his ultra-conservative approach. In the 78th minute, Banega gave the ball away foolishly, allowing Casemiro to launch a missile from thirty yards out. The thundering effort bounced off Tomáš Vaclík’s outstretched hands and into the net to make it 1-0.
Sevilla tried to react, but their spirit was broken and Madrid began to slow the pace of play. It looked like the game would end at that scoreline, before the away side decided to give the ball away one last time right at the death. Modrić was the beneficiary, as he stripped Carriço and strolled into a one-versus-one that he finished easily.
The two-goal scoreline may be a bit flattering to Real Madrid, but they certainly deserved to win. They outshot their opponents twenty-three to four and fired off enough long shots to deserve a winner according to expected goal numbers.
That might not come off as a spectacular performance to outside observers, but this is a big improvement relative to previous performances. Solari executed competent tactics for the second league game in a row and Madrid’s individual quality did the rest.
One of those individuals was Luka Modrić, who finally looks like he’s getting back to his very best. He put in an all-round performance this game, producing athletic interceptions, controlling the tempo, creating several chances, and scoring a goal.
On the flip side, Sevilla supporters will be extremely disappointed. Their team currently looks to be on a bit of a downward slide and Machín did not do enough to win at the Bernabéu. Beyond his overly cautious second half tactics, his defensive set-up invited too much pressure. By asking his side to maintain their 5-3-2 shape on defense, Madrid were easily able to progress play to the wings and overload Sevilla’s wing-backs.
Additionally, Sevilla’s strikers were always disconnected from play, something that was not helped by Banega’s putrid performance. Needless to say, Sevilla will need to improve a lot going forward if they wish to stay in the top four.
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