Real Madrid and Barcelona are, without debate, two of the most successful sides the world has ever seen, winning a combined 57 La Liga titles, 48 Copas del Rey, and 17 European Cups and Champions League titles. Barcelona has had such legendary players as Johan Cruijff, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Maradona and the Brazillian Ronaldo. Madrid has also hosted players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, the Brazillian Ronaldo, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka and Roberto Carlos. But what makes these two sides so successful?
Well, Money is probably the main factor. Each side easily has enough money to spend hundreds of millions of euros year-on-year, and it’s no coincidence that the three best players in the world all play for the two. However, surprisingly, both clubs are fan-owned, unlike more recently successful sides such as Manchester City and Chelsea, who have both had huge investments from mega-rich foreign investors.
Los Blancos and Los Blaugrana, despite their world-famous vicious rivalry, are very similar in many ways, especially in terms of how they line up on the pitch. They both tend to stick to a traditional 4-3-3 formation, with solid centre-backs, athletic full-backs, super-fast-super-skillful wingers, a quick, but deadly, striker, and a midfield trio of one defensive, one box-to-bow and one attacking.
Barcelona tend to have their front three made up of Messi as a right-winger and Neymar on the left-wing with Suarez central. What spices it up, is that Neymar is right-footed and Messi is left-footed, but each are confident on either side, meaning that they are perfectly equipt to cut inside and attack the gaps in a back four in a pincer movement. Real Madrid do the same thing, with right-footed Ronaldo on the left and left-footed Bale on the right, This tactic makes defending successfully almost impossible.
But defending with three at the back is just suicide. Leaving your defenders one-on-one against three of the worlds best players is bound to lead to them getting in behind the defence, and this is where the midfield comes into play. The attacking midfielder, usually Rakitic, Isco or Marco Asensio, will run at the defence and press them back, whilst the forwards run off the shoulder and get slipped through by either the attacking midfielder or the passing, box-to-box midfielder, usually Iniesta or Kroos.
That leaves the defensive midfielder, Casemiro or Busquets, to sit just ahead of the defensive line and drop back to add another defender, but they can also move forward and provide extra support in the midfield if needed.
It’s a near-perfect tactic, but there is a way to beat it, as shown by Juventus and PSG in The Champions League last season. PSG came close to knocking out Barca, winning the first leg of their tie 3-0, but, after their valiant, and referee assisted, come-back from a 4-0 first leg defeat, Barca, somehow, pulled it back and won 6-1 in leg two, putting them through 6-5 on aggregate. Juve won their first leg 3-0, by locking up at the back, and doing taking the unthinkable risk; not marking the front three. And it worked! MSN break the offside trap by drawing out a defender and create a gap and then slide through one of the wingers to go one-on-one. Juve just wouldn’t be drawn out. They used their experienced back line, with Bonnucci and Chiellini keeping everything in order, and then using quick full backs Dani Alves and Alex Sandro to catch up if they do make a slip-up.
Overall, Real Madrid and Barcelona are mega-rich and can buy the perfect players to fit their tactics. Their tactics and formations are both modern, and classic at the same time, but they are always developing and changing, because being successful is the easy bit, maintaining it? No so much.
You can still join my fantasy football league if you would like. Just click the link, sign in, select your team and you’re good to go! https://fantasy.premierleague.com/?autojoin-code=973676-233557
Please do feel free to add to the discussion in the comments, I’d love to hear your opinion on the matter.
If you enjoyed this article please do leave a like, and add any questions, comments or queries in the comments section below. If you want to see more from The Dugout you can follow the site, using your Email or WordPress account, it’s totally free. There will be a new post out during the week, so stay tuned!