Let’s just ignore all mention of the antics towards the end of the second leg of the Supercup between Real Madrid and Barcelona and instead just focus on the football. I’m going to focus on Real Madrid’s second leg performance (mainly because I only watched half of the first leg) and as you can see in the diagram, this is roughly how they lined up. Coentrao came in for Marcelo but that was the only change from the first leg.
Real started as they had done in the first leg, pressuring the Barcelona players intensely and defending from the front. This worked so well in the first leg, as Barcelona didn’t have their usual midfield three in that game, but was slightly less effective in the second leg. Eric Abidal was still harried on occasion and forced into long balls, but the presence of Busquets and Xavi made it easier for the Blaugrana to pass around Real.
One point that came out of the game was the deployment of Carvalho. The Portuguese defender often came out of defense in order to try and stop Messi and he was partly at fault for the first goal. Messi dropped deep, Carvalho came out (although not deep enough), and Messi played a through-ball to Iniesta into the gap which Carvalho had left. Employing an attacking centre-back (one who comes out of defense to follow the ‘false 9’) has often been suggested as a way to stop Messi, but never before has it been implemented, and I think it would need a distinctly different player to be successful in the position.
Real’s first goal came from a corner, and it was interesting to note that on three separate occasions, Karim Benzema was left completely free beyond the back post on these set-pieces. In this case, his shot was deflected in by Ronaldo, who seemed to be in an offside position.
In the second half, Marcelo came on for Sami Khedira, so Fabio Coentrao moved to the midfield (where he has played in most of his side’s pre-season games) and Marcelo played at left-back. The match became very scrappy and there were a lot of stoppages too. Pepe was very fortunate not to be sent off, although when Marcelo was given his marching orders after a scything challenge on debutant Fabregas, they were thoroughly deserved.
Real’s second goal came from another scrappy corner, and they may look to set-pieces to defeat Barcelona in the future. That man Messi though stopped the match from going into extra-time with a sublime volley after a one-two with Adriano and that was the end of that.
For future Clasicos, I suggest (although Mourinho probably won’t read this blog) that the Real Madrid coach employs the same tactics, but with different players starting. Nuri Sahin could replace Khedira and, while keeping all the same defensive qualities, add a little more offensively, and Carvalho could be dropped in favour of Albiol or Ramos (with Arbeloa playing at right-back). One thing’s for sure, though, Real have improved considerably since the 5-0 humiliation in November last year.