Real Madrid: Pitch Side Perspective 🇬🇧

Real Mallorca pulled off arguably their finest victory in the last ten years on Saturday evening. In this week’s blog post, I’m going to take a look at where the game was won and lost as well as giving you a unique insight into what it looked like from my pitch side vantage point.

Tactical Masterclass vs Tactical Mess

A tactical masterclass from one manager was met by a tactical mess from the other as Vicente Moreno locked horns with Zinedine Zidane for the first time. Moreno had the blessing of no concerns over injuries and relatively few players who had been away on international duty. In contrast for Los Blancos, almost anything that could go wrong did. The midfield was drained of the balance that is so badly needed with the injury of Tony Kroos prior to the international break. Insult was added to injury with Luca Modric and Gareth Bale picking up knocks whilst away with their national teams. Eden Hazard was the final nail in the coffin, withdrawing last minute due to the birth of his fourth child.

Despite this, Real Madrid are one of the biggest clubs in the world with resources to overcome such problems. Zidane’s decision to leave Fede Valverde on the bench impacted on his team’s ability to control the midfield. Above all though, it was leaving Dani Carvajal in Madrid that caused the biggest issue. His replacement Alvaro Odriozola allowed Lago Junior to cut inside and score the only goal of the game. Later in the game he saw red for a rash tackle, again on Junior, that brought a second yellow card as Los Blancos chased the game.

Above all else, what was clear from my pitch side vantage point was the influence that the Mallorca bench had on the game, in contrast to that of Zidane and his coaching staff. Moreno and Dani Pendin were a constant presence on the edge of the technical area, barking out instructions, delivering encouragement and keeping the team motivated. Such was his enthusiasm, Pendin was given a final warning for encroaching on the field of play by the fourth official. In contrast, Zidane was statuesque and a solitary figure on the edge of his technical area. Little instruction or tactical tweaking took place from Los Blancos and the Mallorca coaching team clearly won this tactical head to head.

Pregame it was difficult to decipher how Real would set up, with so many attacking players on the pitch. It almost seemed as if, despite their injuries, that Zidane felt all they had to do was turn up with 11 strong players in order to win the game. However, he wasn’t banking on the astute management of Vicente Moreno. The Valencian packed the centre of the field with his team playing narrow, and as a result Real were forced wide and away from goal. This protected Manolo Reina from a barrage of shots which would have otherwise rained in on his goal.

Joan Sastre, Vinicius Jr and a Smart Move

In the first half, Vinicius Jr was on fire, picking up the ball and running at Sastre. The right back had a torrid time and quickly picked up a booking, hauling the young Brazilian back as he ran towards the box. Unfortunately for Vinicius, that red hot spell of play was accompanied by what is becoming his trade mark, poor finishing. In 18 games in La Liga last season he found the net just once and has scored just one goal in six games so far this time around. Despite beating Sastre repeatedly throughout the first 30 minutes of the game, he failed to supply one good opportunity for Karim Benzema or Luca Jovic or to hit the target himself. A better output is expected for a Real Madrid starter.

Moreno then showed the type of decisive tactical in game management that can win matches. With Sastre on a yellow card Moreno sensed the danger and immediately switched Fran Gamez to the right side of the defence to face the rampant Vinicius Jr. Lumor replaced Sastre at half time with Gamez and Lumor both going on to have their best games for the club. If the Son Moix supporters did not appreciate the masterstroke for what it was at the time, they certainly did an hour later as Odriozola got his marching orders.

Another Madrid Mountain to Climb

Mallorca will have celebrated hard on Saturday night after three points from the most unexpected of sources. This week though Moreno and Dani Pendin will have them focused on the task in hand for this weekend when they face another Madrid side. Perhaps they don’t have the prestige of Los Blancos, but Mallorca face one of their most important fixtures of the season so far away against rock bottom Leganes.

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