Table-toppers Real Madrid coming off a huge, potentially title-deciding 2-0 victory against Barcelona, visited Estadio Benito Villamarín, the home of Real Betis. Having won only one in their last 10 games, most recently a 2-1 defeat to Valencia, Real Betis find themselves flirting with the bottom half of the table in what was expected to be a comfortable victory for Madrid.
A victory that would have increased their lead at the top of La Liga with 11 games remaining and momentum very much on their side.
On the other hand, a home win for Betis would keep there very faint hopes of Europa League alive, more importantly, push them further away from the dreaded drop zone, making the run in more comfortable. This tactical analysis of the match aims to explain how Betis frustrated Madrid and ultimately took all three points. This analysis is focusing on tactics.
Betis recently have experimented with 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-3-1 tactics. Approaching this game against Madrid, they had opted for 4-4-2 with Nabil Fekir and Loren Morón leading the line. Madrid opted for their familiar 4-1-4-1 opting for Lucas Vázquez, Luka Modrić and Éder Militão instead of Dani Carvajal, Isco and Federico Valverde in their only changes from the El Clásico.
The ability to contain paid dividends
Betis set up aiming to contain Madrid and ultimately catch Real Madrid on the counter-attack. Betis early on were more than happy to wait for Madrid to make a mistake rather than press until Madrid made an error like the below image shows.
As you can see in the first half Betis had an average PPDA (Passes allowed per defensive action) of 20.6. This would mean that Madrid would have a lot of the ball, the problem Madrid faced was Betis would get into their shape as quickly as possible as shown below.
Betis would then look to force Madrid wide and more importantly, force them out to the right. By doing this, players like Vázquez and Militão would have more of the ball for Madrid, although they are still good players, Vázquez has never been a serial creator and Militão is more of center-back than he is a full-back, therefore lacking natural flair that is required.
The image to the right shows how effective attacking down the right-hand side really was. They created 16% of their overall xG (Expected Goals) down the right-hand side, which goes to show how ineffective Vázquez and Militão really were. This seemed to be a constant theme as 45% of Real Madrid’s attacks came down the right in the first half as Real Betis would look to overload the left-hand side, limiting Vinícius Júnior and Marcelo as much as they could.
As per the above image, Joaquín was consistently following Marcelo up the field and forming a back five to contain the spaces on the left, forcing Madrid to the right which ultimately had success as Betis took the lead in the 40th minute through Sidnei.
Madrid second-half push not enough
Madrid after the break really improved. Madrid really pressed with more intensity, getting after the ball and trying to make things happen.
When returning back to this graphic, you can really see how successful the Madrid press was, from averaging 12.8 PPDA in the first half to then averaging 5.9 PPDA in the second half, which really shows the increase in intensity.
As per the above image, the impact of Madrid’s intensity in the press is shown clearly. Betis had 86% passing accuracy in the first half which dropped to 69% in the second half. This really shows how effective the Madrid press was, Betis really struggled to find any control in the game or maintain the ball for long periods of time, which meant Madrid were growing in stature throughout the game.
As you can see, Madrid started the second half positively, they were able to push more men forward, create overloads in dangerous areas, which would then give their most creative players time and space to create as you can see in the below image.
As you can see, Madrid had accumulated 0.77 xG in the second half compared to Betis creating 0.39 xG in the second half.
Betis throughout the half dropped deeper as the game went on. The image on the right best displays this. In the last 30 minutes of the game, Betis retreated and continued to make it difficult for Madrid to create clear cut opportunities. Betis continued to send Madrid out wide, with Karim Benzema being possibly the only aerial threat for Madrid.
Betis were more than comfortable to deal with Madrid crosses into the box, with a total of 23 crosses with only 30% actually being met by a Madrid target.
This defeat for Madrid is a major blow for their titles aspirations. Although Madrid edged the game in terms of xG with the game ending 1.14 to 1.71 in favour of Madrid, the fact Benzema leads the line with 0.85 xG is a concern, as a large proportion of his xG was based on his goal scored from the penalty spot. They at times lacked creativity and found it difficult to consistently get their best players on the ball.
Madrid has a big few weeks ahead of them, with the title race hotting up as well as a crucial clash away to Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League.
On the other hand, Betis with this win moves up to 12th. Their next challenge will be a trip to Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium to play high flying Sevilla in which they will hope for a positive result.
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