How Real Madrid Pressed and Beat Atletico

By Stevie Grieve - Real Madrid Pressing v Atletico Madrid

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As the ball is passed back, a common pressing trigger in modern football allows for pressure on the ball, and squeezing the defensive lines higher up the field. In this example, Real Madrid’s midfield and defense can squeeze up as the front 3 press the ball, in a 4-3-3/4-3-2-1 formation.

As Benzema presses, we can see that Madrid’s 3 midfielders are on their left side, so Benzema will try to cut the field in half, and force play into where Madrid’s midfield are already positioned.

Benzema forces Atletico into where Real Madrid wants to defend from

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As Benzema presses the ball, Ronaldo and Bale tuck into central positions, which makes it more difficult to pass through the centre, and is trying to force play into Juanfran, the Atletico right back.

As the pressure is made by Benzema, Ronaldo and Bale have 2 players to deal with each, while Benzema deals with the players within his pressing range infront of him – the 2 centre backs.

Real Madrid have 2 preferences here, a long pass into Coentrao at left back with cover around him and in a position to regain possession, or pass into Juanfran where Di Maria and Ronaldo can double press and try to regain possession in an attacking position.

Long Ball is forced – Real Madrid shift to recover the possible loose ball

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As Benzema gets close to the ball, the centre back doesn’t want to pass across to his centre back partner as this is within the pressing range and in the running direction of Benzema, so instead plays a long pass into the corner, where Coentrao is against Sosa, with Modric, Khedira and Di Maria all able to recover the loose ball in the 2nd ball zone (circled).

Each player here has different responsibilities depending on where the ball is moved to, meaning that in this pressure situation players need to react and decide what to do quickly.

Pressing on the sides – Zonal Flooding to Overload

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As Atletico enter an agreed area, Real Madrid will commit an extra player to allow them to regain possession in that area, or force a throw in, allowing them to re-set the defensive shape and use any pressing traps they may have worked on.

Double 2v1 scenarios in full back zones

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Felipe Luis tries to break forward but is tracked by 2 players, as Modric blocks the forward dribble, allowing Varane to press on the only exit route backwards, allowing Madrid to have a good chance of a regain in the wide zone. If Atletico find a way out, Madrid are in good position to cover centrally a play will likely take time to come inside, or go backwards, allowing Madrid to reshape.

High Pressure man-man marking in opposition half

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As Atletico have regained possession and want to get forward quickly, so Real Madrid instantly go to a High Pressure, Man-Man defence, with cover around the initial zone of pressure. Khedira can press the ball and block the forward dribble, while Ramos covers behind him to possibly intercept or deal with the dribble should he evade Khedira.

Ronaldo will track the runner as it’s a man-man system, but he has a limit as to how far he will track – once the runner is behind the intial passing angle block (Khedira), Ronaldo will hold position and double up on the ball carrier. Di Maria will do a similar role in marking the next closest opponent, as will Modric who covers behind the pressure with Ramos, with Modric taking up a marking responsibility to force a difficult pass to get out of the pressure on the side.

Fast Pressure once the press is beaten

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As the pressure is beaten (which happens in top level football) Real Madrid need to react instantly – Modric shifts over to allow him to intercept/press the passes to his left, as Benzema presses and attempts to force Atletico to pass into trouble, where Ronaldo and Modric will try to press 2v1.

Bale has tucked into a central position and makes the play as compact as possible.

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Compact, high pressure defending forces a predictable long ball

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As Benzema has pressed quickly, we can see that under pressure, it will be difficult to play exactly to where Atletico want to, and as there are 7 players in the one small area, the defence react quickly and drop off to deal with the predictable long pass.

Atletico have 2 players available between the lines, but under such pressure, with so much traffic in the way, the risk of the short pass (interception and rapid counter attack is possible) the reward for playing this pass isn’t enough, and the long ball is chosen, although the short pass may have been unseen!

Real Madrid’s pressing allowed them to stop Atletico from gaining a grip on the game, and keeping them from getting the midfield close enough to the forwards to pin Real Madrid back and cause enough pressure to get a 2nd goal, which would’ve won the game.

By Stevie Grieve. (Follow on Twitter @steviegrieve)  Stevie is also the author Coaching the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching the 4-2-3-1 Advanced Tactics

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