Real Madrid tactical analysis

SD Eibar – Real Madrid: Eibar’s High Press Played Through Easily (0-4)

Real Madrid comfortably dispatched SD Eibar, putting together a compact passing system in order to play through their super high block. Even having scored four, whether they exploited Eibar’s poor defensive shape enough remains questionable.  

Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker

Though the worlds between SD Eibar and Real Madrid could not be further apart, this was a fixture between two managers under scrutiny. Eibar’s super high pressing may be pleasing to the eye, but results have applied pressure on Jose Mendilibar, too. Wins over Villarreal and CD Leganés have – at least – taken them out of trouble, however 14th in the table and six points from the relegation zone is hardly a secure position. 

Mendilibar has established a unique style to Eibar; using direct, long passes towards the strikers, before setting up in an intense high block in the 4-4-2 formation. But once the high press is played through, Eibar show they are more than vulnerable in defensive situations. Unsurprisingly, they made limited changes from the previous game – Paulo Oliveira and Charles being replaced by Pedro Bigas and Sergi Enrich at center-back and striker positions.  

Real Madrid may have comfortably dispatched Galatasaray in mid-week action; however, the jury remains out on Zinedine Zidane’s case. Inconsistent form and an unbalanced squad have not helped a manager who relies on individual quality and man-management, rather than tactical nous. But Real Madrid are far from the powerhouse they intend to be, a defeat in the Basque Country would be used as key evidence if the trial on Zidane is to be re-opened any time soon.

As expected, Real Madrid were playing in their 4-3-3 system, yet missing attacking options such as Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez. Despite his hattrick in midweek, Rodrygo could only make the bench, whilst Lucas Vázquez started on the right wing. Ferland Mendy and Luka Modrić would also return to the starting lineup.

Breaking down Eibar’s pressing

When Eibar’s pressing is well-calculated and organized, teams that play out from the back often find it difficult to play through – due to the pace and numbers forward when they are off the ball. Real Madrid do not necessarily play out from the back, but the defensive line always sees plenty of possession. 

Mendilibar’s team aim to pin the opposition onto the wide channels in their buildup, before overloading When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. the flanks to win possession. They do this with both wingers moving up into the forward line – creating a 4-2-4 shape out of possession. To nullify Madrid, Sergi Enrich man-marked Casemiro, whilst Kike closed the space for either one of the center-backs on the ball.

SD Eibar’s 4-2-4 high block vs Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 passing structure. 

Beating this extreme press would be a key objective for Zidane. Real Madrid easily achieved this due to the positioning of their players. Dani Carvajal remained deep in the buildup, whilst both Federico Valverde and Luka Modrić occupied the space close to Casemiro. This gave Real Madrid plenty of passing options in their own half, whilst also giving the two central midfielders the opportunity to push further up the field with defensive cover in place.

Eibar’s press is effective, but Real Madrid managed to play through it with short vertical passes and quick sequences to break the midfield line. Eden Hazard was given plenty of space to carry the ball forward from deep and run into, with Karim Benzema and an overlapping When a wide player, most of the times a wing-back, runs outside to fill in the space left by a winger going inside with or without the ball, this is called overlapping. Ferland Mendy as options around him. 

Goals come thick and fast

Real Madrid controlled the opening stages, but they had not produced anything yet in the final third. The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. Just the one shot at goal in the first fifteen minutes, even if Benzema’s close-range effort was well stopped by Marko Dmitrović. They had access towards the penalty area but attacking moves would either end in an aimless cross or eventually covered by the Eibar defense. 

Zidane’s team needed better entry towards the penalty area and exploiting Eibar’s high line would be the answer. Hazard produced a fabulous line-breaking pass from out wide, thanks to Valverde’s positioning and Benzema’s run behind the defense. The finish may have been scrappy, but after an exchange of passes, an attempted shot from Modrić and Eibar failing to clear the phases, Benzema managed to fire in with the goalkeeper way out of position.

Clumsier Eibar defending followed, as they would concede two penalties in the space of ten minutes. Hazard was brought down by Pablo De Blasis in the left side of the area, Sergio Ramos converted as per usual, to give Real Madrid a two-goal advantage. Benzema would add to his tally from the spot as well, following José Ángel mistimed tackle on Lucas Vázquez.  

Eibar have quantity, but not quality shots

Mendilibar’s team failed to create anything of note up until the third goal. Real Madrid set up in a 4-1-4-1 / 5-4-1 shape off the ball – depending on the position of Casemiro. Eibar’s direct style did not trouble Real Madrid’s defensive block, A defensive block is the compact group of defenders that defends a particular zone, either their own half in a medium defensive block, or the zone around their own box in a deep defensive block. although Eibar still managed to enter decent positions through the flanks. 

Dani Carvajal occupied the halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. when the ball was down his flank. This gave Takashi Inui space to enter, and with José Ángel in support, Eibar were capable of making sufficient progress down the flank. However, with the number of Real Madrid players behind the ball, they did not get the space needed in order to create high quality chances. 

Real Madrid’s 4-1-4-1 low-block made it hard for Eibar to enter decent shooting positions.

Positioning of both Modrić and Valverde would be particularly important, especially when either one of Eibar’s midfielders would hold possession. They would cover passing lanes forward and were quick to react when either one had the ball, closing space down for them. With both wingers dropping back into the midfield line, Real Madrid had a vast number of players back in defensive situations. 

Thibaut Courtois was not even forced to make a save from shots by Inui, Kike and Ángel either being blocked or wide off the mark. Their best opportunity to grab a goal back would come just before half-time, Fabián Orellana’s indirect free kick bounced across the six-yard box – however Gonzalo Escalante could only fire the ball over the crossbar from close range. 

Real Madrid’s fourth kills the game

Eibar began the second half in positive fashion, holding possession in the middle third and forming an organized passing structure. However, due to the numbers Real Madrid put behind the ball and the compactness in central areas, Eibar were limited with what they could do in the final third. Attacking moves would conclude with either a poor attempt at goal or succumbing to Real’s pressure. 

When attacks broke down, Real Madrid could comfortably switch the ball forward and catch Eibar out of their defensive shape. This is what happened in their fourth goal, Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema doubling-up down the left flank and linking together as they moved the ball forward. Mendy’s cross was overhit, but Modrić recovered possession, pulled the ball back to his fellow midfielder Valverde – who perfectly placed the ball into the bottom right corner from the edge of the penalty area. 

Real Madrid had added an impressive fourth goal, which had subsequently killed off the match. Eibar dropped more numbers back before the score line would get embarrassing, whilst Real remained in their tight defensive structure. Like for like substitutions from Zidane indicated that he was happy with the system he had established, Eibar would also keep to their 4-4-2 shape. 


José Mendilibar remains in a tough position. Eibar are now 15th in the league standings with just four victories under their belt. They need to find a structure which balances between their high-pressing and a solid defensive block – conceding more goals in open play than anyone else is a clear indication that the system in place isn’t working as effectively in comparison to last season. Mendilibar has an international break to figure out how to do this, a crucial fixture against Deportivo Alavés maybe the difference between mid-table and a relegation scrap.

Real Madrid won in convincing style, ten goals in two games is certainly impressive to the naked eye. Despite this, Madrid could have exploited Eibar’s high press much more and built better attacking sequences than they had done – maybe nitpicky on a team which score four, but the two penalties make a huge difference to the expected goal The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. values. Third-placed Real Sociedad up next at the Santiago Bernabéu, a big game in the rather messy LaLiga title race.

Use the arrows to scroll through all available match plots. Click to enlarge.
Check the match plots page for plots of other matches.

Joel Parker (21) is an Everton fan. Whenever he’s not watching his beloved Everton, Joel spends his time analyzing all sorts of football. Chief editor and Founder of Toffee Analysis. [ View all posts ]


Be the first to comment on this article

Leave a Reply

Go to TOP