In this tactical analysis, we analyse the game in Group H between Boca Juniors and Independiente Medellin of the Copa Libertadores 2020. Independiente started the Copa Libertadores with a loss at home against Club Libertad. Boca Juniors tied against FC Caracas in Venezuela.

Both teams are the actual champion in their countries. Boca Juniors’ statistics are impressive. They haven’t lost a single game in the South American league and Champions League since April 2018. Boca Juniors won this game in their famous “La Bombonera” with 3:0.

Independiente, coached by Aldo Bobadilla, began the game better. But after Boca Juniors’ coach Miguel Ángel Russo changed his pressing tactics, Boca Juniors had the upper hand. We also took a look at Carlos Tévez, the captain of Russo’s team, in this analysis. He led his team to their first win in this Copa Libertadores season.



Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tactics

As you can see in the line-ups above, both teams were playing with a 4-4-2 tactic. Also, both were using a double pivot in the centre of the midfield.

Coach Bobadilla could draw from the full for his starting XI compared to their first game in the Copa Libertadores. He brought in Juan Mosquera for Yulián Gómez as the right full-back, Edwin Mosquera for Bayron Garcés and Leonardo Castro for Larry Angulo. Independiente wanted to press highly, so they came up with two physical strikers. One of them was Juan Caicedo, who has played in the MLS. To have a chance against Boca Juniors, they went with compactness between their lines.

On the other side of the field, coach Russo changed his starting XI in eight positions. Russo couldn’t use his centre-back Lisandro López, but the rest of the team was fit. They also played with their favourite tactic. Franco Soldado played as a penalty box striker. The former Manchester United and Manchester City player Tévez integrated himself into the build-up play. This was a key factor to spread Independiente’s lines.

The statistics show that the team of Bobadilla lost their compactness. You can see this in the team shape graphic below. A team like Boca Juniors knows how to expend this space.

Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tactics

Interrupting the build-up

As you can see in the analysis below, Independiente built-up through one pivot in centre-midfield. The other central midfielder went higher up the pitch.
Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tacticsIn the first third of the game, Boca Juniors were pressing with their two strikers and mostly one midfielder. In the analysis above, Independiente’s central midfielder could also turn himself and had time to shift the ball. As Independiente’s full-backs were involved in the build-up, Independiente were able to create passing combinations having the majority with five players against three offensive Boca Juniors players.

As a result, Independiente controlled most of the first half. They had an advantage in expected goals with 0.29 against 0.07 expected goals until the 35th minute. The tipping point in the game was a tactical knack from Russo.

In the tactical analysis below, you can see a deciding moment depicted. In this situation, Boca Juniors pressed with two additional players.

Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tacticsCoach Russo wanted to interrupt Independiente’s build-up. He imposed a higher press. Independiente still had a numerical advantage, but their central midfielder missed to get out of the covered zone. Boca Juniors pressed as Independiente’s centre-back Andrés Cadavid got the ball.

They forced Cadavid to play long balls, as he is limited in his technical abilities. Despite his two passing opportunities, Cadavid played the long ball. The statistics show that Bobadilla’s centre-back played four long balls under pressure in the first half.

In the next example, a similar situation happened, but here the central midfielder came into space. Now he can combine with the second central midfielder or play a pass back to the keeper.
Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tactics
Central midfielders should get the ball during the build-up, as they are most likely the players with the best touch and overview. There was an alley to get the ball to the central midfielder, which would be an option to outplay Boca Juniors’ intense pressing.

Another option was to play the ball to Independiente’s left full-back. The left full-back would’ve had enough space to loosen the pressing.

A third option would be the second pivot. It would’ve been the best option if the midfielder would move a bit towards his box and would signal that he had enough space. That way Cadavid could also be supported more by his second pivot.

All in all, Bobadilla’s squad could have managed Boca Juniors’ pressing by adjusting some tactical rearrangements in the build-up. With the ball played long, lost of possession for Independiente came also along with.

Carlos Tévez assumed responsibility

Both teams played with the same tactic and Tévez realised this. He left his position to strengthen the midfield several times. He was not a threat in the last third, if he did not get any convertible balls, so he moved between the lines. Independiente had good distances between the lines, as shown in the tactical analysis below.

Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tacticsTévez made a run and called for the ball. He moved from the last line to the second one. As he was in the shadow of the second line, the Boca Juniors’ forward stood unmarked. He did exactly the move which Independiente’s second central midfielder should have done: overloading the midfield.

A higher press gets counterproductive by this move. At least three to four opponents could be outplayed. These players were missed in the defensive block.

Tévez had a look around before he received the ball. He saw how much space he had, which made him turn even before he got the ball to increase the tempo. He passed it on to the wing with his left foot in one movement after taking an initial touch with his right foot.

Next, Boca Juniors settled in Independiente’s last third on the left-wing. They were not able to play a cross due to Independiente’s defending. You can see the example below.

Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tactics

Russo’s squad rearranged the attack. Tévez anticipated the space in zone 14. As a consequence, he dropped out of the penalty box offering a passing option. Similar to the situation before, he served himself with his first touch. Usually, his distance shooting is superb, but in this situation, he missed narrowly.

Tévez was not just helping out in the centre, but also exploited the space on the flanks. You can see how Tévez moved to the wing in the example below.

Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tactics

If he called for the ball in the centre, Boca Juniors would’ve not shifted and stretched Independiente’s last four. As Tévez moved to the wing, Independiente’s right full-back had to left him unmarked.

If the full-back would’ve stuck with Tévez, the player with the ball could run straight forward in the shortest way to the opponent’s goal. Tévez could easily play a one-two pass. So the forward had enough space and time to manage the game. He played a changeover to the other wing.

With Russo’s tactic change and Tévez integration in the build-up, Boca Juniors boosted their possession. The stats show their increased possession from 47% to 56%. With more possession, Boca Juniors used the first bigger tactical misconduct in Bobadilla’s lines.

Lack of discipline in the second line

Boca Juniors had just a few chances until they scored to make it 1:0. Boca Juniors built-up the game and shifted it to the midline. Independiente tried to stay compact, as you can see in the example below.
Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tactics

The second line did not have any tier as they should have. Defending in such a compact line without any increments makes it easy to lever out five players.

By the pass being played, Boca Juniors’ full-back gained a lot of space without being attacked until the penalty box. He sprinted to the box without being stopped, so Independiente’s four backs had even less time to reorganize. The next graphic shows how Independiente could’ve prevented this attack with some rearrangement.
Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tacticsThe player who is the closest should pressure the ball carrier. The player to his left and right should back him up. The last line should shift a bit to the left side to overload the side at which the ball was. They should form more curved than a flat line. The full-backs would be backed by reshaping in a curved line. Moreover one of the centre-backs would be the deepest player and hence he could give the command for an offside trap.

The central midfielder could reposition to the left space at the level of the penalty box. This is how Independiente could have handled this situation better. As said before, Independiente’s first line had just less time for reorganisation. The next example shows the final cross for the 1:0 by Eduardo Salvio.

Copa Libertadores 2020: Boca Juniors vs Independiente Medellín – tactical analysis tactics

Before the cross was played, Boca Juniors combined at the edge of the penalty box. Salvio came into the penalty box from the opposite side. Independiente’s right full-back lost sight of the forward as you can see above.

If the full-back stood at a different angle, he could mark Salvio and at the same time watch the ball. The same applies to the centre-backs. After the cross played, Salvio came to the direction of the ball and headed it in.

This goal gave power to Russo’s team. Boca Juniors maintained the game and scored for the second goal due to a counter-attack. Emanuel Reynoso set the final point with a beautiful freekick from the right side for a result of 3:0.


Independiente began the game courageously and were the better team in the first third. They built-up with combinations, which led to scoring opportunities. But the change from coach Russo in Boca Juniors’ pressing tactic put of Independiente’s stride. On top of that, Tévez showed how important he is for the team. Boca Juniors won more possessions and managed Independiente’s pressing well. Additionally, the team exploited small tactic deficiencies. Boca Juniors accomplished their mandatory task, while the team of Bobadilla stood with their backs to the wall in the Copa Libertadores.bocc

Philipp Von Friesen
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