The key tactical reasons River Plate failed to break down Palestino in the Copa Libertadores

Copa Libertadores 2019: River Plate vs Palestino Tactical Analysis Statistics
Artwork by @chapluana

In matchday two of 2019 Copa Libertadores, River Plate played against Palestino. The match was played at El Monumental. River Plate is the current champion. River Plate played behind closed doors and also without their manager Marcelo Gallardo due to the sanction of the Conmebol. Thanks to Ferreira’s late equalizer, River recorded a draw against Alianza Lima in their first match in 2019 Copa Libertadores.

Palestino’s manager Ivo Basay has been in charge since October 9th, 2018. The team have played nine games under his guidance. He led the team to the Copa Libertadores group stage. Palestino lost their first match, played at home against Brazilian side International. It was 0-1.


River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsCredit: Wyscout

This year, River Plate have played in different formations. Gallardo has used 4-4-2, 5-3-2, 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2, 4-1-3-2 etc. River Plate started the match in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Interestinglycentre forward Lucas Pratto started as the left winger.

Palestino have also used different formations this season also (4-2-3-1, 3-4-1-2), but they played most of their games in a 4-3-1-2 formation. In this match, Palestino played in a 4-3-1-2 formation.

River’s attacking structure

River dominated the possession with 60,13 %, but it was a little bit chaotic. They didn’t play out from the back very often. River’s players wanted to play to the final third as soon as possible. They switched the ball to another flank very often, especially Quintero. Also, River played long often and after that, they wanted to win the second ball.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsRiver played long. Three River’s players were near the ball. They were in a horizontal line and close to each other.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsCentral midfielder Perez dropped deeper and played long to right winger Quintero.

River attacked with eight players often. Only two central backs stayed at the back. Palestino wanted to use it, but their counter-attacks were very slow. River played down the flanks. Their formation was 4-2-3-1, but River used some rotations in the final third. Lucas Pratto started as the left winger. He is a powerful player who is very useful in aerial duels. When River had the ball on the right side, the right back created width. Pratto moved in the middle and attacking midfielder Fernandez went to the right half space area. Quintero was slightly deeper than them. In these situations, he plays long or crosses the ball.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsRiver’s attacking rotation. Pratto moved inside and pinned the right central back. Striker Santos Borre occupied Palestino’s right back. Attacking midfielder Fernandez was in the right half space area. Both side backs created width. The player with the ball is Quintero. He played the long ball to Borre. Borre played the ball to Fernandez, but he didn’t score the goal.

Palestino’s attacking plan

Palestino’s plan was to defend their goal. They were focused on defence. In attack, they often went long. When they had the ball in the first third, they usually went long immediately. Generally, their target was striker Lucas Passerini. They played long to Passerini and then other players occupied that area. Also, Palestino wanted to play on counter attacks. They had two vs two situations a few times, but their transition was very slow.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsPalestino played long to Passerini. Other two players were close and they formed the triangle. They had 3 vs 2 situations.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsRiver attacked with eight players. Both of Palestino’s striker stayed forward. When Palestino won the ball they played long. But, the transition of other players was very slow, so Palestino’s attacks were harmless.

Defensive play of both teams

Palestino played in middle block in the defensive phase of the game. They played in the man-marking system. Palestino’s defence was narrow. When River was on their half, then Palestino played defence in the deep block. In that case, Palestino defended with eight players (all players excepted two strikers). They were in the same structure as in the attacking phase of the game (4-3-1-2).

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsPalestino’s  4-3-1-1 in defence in a deep block. Eight Palestino’s and eight River’s players. Palestino’s players were narrow. Three River’s players were between the lines.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsPalestino’s high press. They press in man mark system Four Palestino’s players closed down five River’s players.

River also played defence in a man marking system. They played defence in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Often they were in the middle block. When Palestino was in the final third, River played very narrowly. In some situations, they could have problems but Palestino’s players were unfocused in the final moment.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsRiver’s 4-2-3-1 in the middle block. All passing options were closed down.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsRiver in a deep block. Their defensive four were very narrow. Their structure was very chaotic. Palestino had free space on their left side, but the pass was very bad, so the chance was ruined.

Changes in both of teams

Teams didn’t play in the same formations whole match. In 63rd minute River switched to 4-4-2. also, they made two substitutions. Lucas Pratto and Juan Quintero came out. Matias Suarez and Cristian Ferreira came in. Matias Suarez and Santos Borre played as the striker duo. Cristian Ferreira played as a left winger. Ignacio Fernandez moved to the right winger position.

Palestino changed their formation too. They were satisfied with this result and they decided to switch to a more defensive structure. From 73th minute Palestino played in a 5-3-2 formation. Left central midfielder Cortes came out. Central defender Enzo Guerrero replaced him. Attacking midfielder Jimenez dropped deeper.

In the second part of the second half, River took more risks. They wanted to score a goal and attacked with more players.

River Plate Palestino Copa Libertadores Tactical Analysis StatisticsRiver’s 2-3-5 in attack.


River dominated the possession with 60 per cent of the ball. Also, they had more shots (13 vs 8). River had two chances, both in the first half. In the second half, River’s attacks were harmless. Palestino was concentrated on defending their goal. They were happy with a draw. Palestino created one chance. The result is realistic. Despite River’s domination in ball possession, they didn’t create enough chances.