Tactical Analysis: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid

By Luismi Loro

27-October-2020 on Users

9 minute read

Last week we asked you to vote on which game you’d like us to analyse this week and the results did not surprise us in the slightest. What else could it have been but El Clasico, the jewel in the crown of Spain’s LaLiga, Barcelona vs Real Madrid.


This analysis was completed using Nacsport and KlipDraw.


Note: This article was originally written in Spanish by pro analyst Luismi Loro and translated to English. As such, pictures are captioned in Spanish and the translation is provided below in italics.

A Classic with a Difference


The 245th El Clasico rolled around with neither team at the peak of their powers.


Barcelona took to the field in an unconventional, at least for them, 4-2-3-1 in which the positions of the 4 forwards often switched from the initial formation of Messi in the middle with Pedri and Coutinho on the right and left respectively and Ansu playing out in front.


Real Madrid, for their part, didn’t play too much with their positioning, although they did make several changes to their starting line up. The entrance of Valverde, Kross and Casemiro kept a sense of consistency and dynamism in midfield.


From our point of view, the result may be a somewhat unfair reflection of a game in which both teams played with merit. The game was almost deadlocked up until the second Madrid goal, coming from the penalty spot, at which point Madrid put their feet on the gas and played Barcelona into submission.


Key Moments


1st Half: Spectacularly Offensive


Yes, we’ve already said that neither team is currently at their best, but from the first minute of the game, both went for the jugular, trying to get a notch on the scoreboard early. On the attack, both teams generated danger when linking from the wing.

On the attack, Real Madrid stuck with a 4-3-3 formation. In defense, this transformed into 4-5-1 in midfield and a 5-4-1 when defending deep in their own half, with Asensio marking Jordi Alba out wide, forming a line of 5 at the back.


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 2


Real Madrid's defensive midfield block with special attention paid to Asensio vs Alba


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 3


Barça on the other hand, attacked in 4-2-3-1 with lots of movement from the forward line. Ansu Fati threatened in the spaces he found and Coutinho cut inside to support Messi in a playmaking role.

FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 4


Coutinho pulls Nacho forward, leaving space for Alba


Defensively, Barcelona found it difficult to steal high and settled in the middle of the field in a 4-4-1-1.


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 5


Barcelona defending in midfield block with 4-4-1-1, leaving space on the right to push out


A few short minutes after kickoff, Real Madrid broke through Barça’s defenses to chalk up the first goal of the game. A good collective move ended with Valverde’s arrival in the box from midfield and slotting past Neto from just outside the 6-yard box, taking advantage of Barcelona’s defensive imbalance.


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 6


Busquets doesn't follow, Dest is out of range


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 7


Pique pushes forward leaving free space behind


Barça also caused some damage in attack. The equaliser came as Madrid sought to defend against Jordi Alba using Asensio. Coutinho moved inside, dragging Nacho with him, simultaneously generating space and allowing Alba to break away from his marker up the left side. His low cross into the box was met by Fati, who became the youngest ever goalscorer in the history of El Clasico.


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 8


Both teams suffered off the ball and it was difficult for either to gain possession in their opponents half. Attacking was a different story with both teams clear about how to break through their opponents defenses from midfield, Barça opting for taking the ball up the wings, especially on the left side with Alba, and Madrid happy to go through the centre of Barça via Valverde, Kross and Benzema.


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 9


Attacking from the outside lane and laying the ball into the centre


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 10


2nd Half: Filled with Controversy


Barcelona started the second half with a bang. Rapid attacks and counter attacks were the order of the day and they had several opportunities to get the upperhand in the match, although none of these moves seemed to fall just right in front of goal.


FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 11


Rapid attack at the start of the 2nd half


On the other hand, Real Madrid used the break to readjust and shore up the holes in the left wing caused by Jordi Alba. Lucas Vazquez joined the game, replacing the injured Nacho, and they looked all the better for it.


The game remained in perfect balance until the 60th minute when Madrid were awarded a penalty after Sergio Ramos fell to the ground inside the 18-yard box. VARS was consulted and a penalty awarded. Looking at the footage now, the penalty was extremely weak and Ramos certainly made the most of it but, undeniably, Ramos’s shirt was tugged.


Ramos himself stepped up to convert the penalty and from that moment on, the rhythm of the game changed completely.


Barcelona lost all clarity when going forward. Koeman’s men just couldn’t find gaps in Madrid’s defense and, importantly, every time they lost the ball, they allowed Madrid to come out in a dangerous counter attack.


Flailing and out of ideas, Barça could have conceded the third goal on numerous occasions. However, it wasn’t until the final stretch of the game that real Madrid, in a frenzied counter attack, put the final nail in the Catalonian coffin.


The goal came from the exact same route that had caused Barça so many problems throughout the game, straight through the middle. The through ball forced Neto off his goal line and left Barcelona’s defense scrambling for position. The ball eventually fell to Luka Modrić who ended the game with a sublime finish.

FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 12




The penalty which led to Madrid going 2-1 up completely changed the dynamics of a game which had, until then, could have gone either way.


Before the penalty, the game was a typical El Clasico affair, entertaining and dynamic, with the advantage constantly fluctuating between each team.


Barcelona tried to adjust their game but this came too late to be effective, even still, Madrid managed to find space in attack.


In summary, this game was all about the pressure imposed on defenses by the forwards.


Join us next week when we'll have another tactical analysis of one of the top games in the world...chosen by you! Every Thursday, we hold a poll on Twitter and Instagram where you can vote for your favourite match of the week. Why not join us there?


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