Liverpool vs Real Madrid Tactical Review – Champions League Final 2021-22

Liverpool vs Real Madrid Tactical Review – Champions League Final 2021-22

Real Madrid have won their fourteenth Champions League as they defeated Liverpool 1-0 in Paris. It was a game that Liverpool dominated for most of the time. However, Thibaut Courtois put in one of the best goalkeeping performances in the history of the Champions League to save Real Madrid multiple times.

Thiago started the game for Liverpool despite his worrying injury issues as Klopp named his best starting eleven. There were some doubts among the fans regarding who would start between Konate and Matip alongside Van Dijk and it was the French defender who started the game as he has been Van Dijk’s partner in cup competitions. Jota and Firmino were both on the bench with Luis Diaz starting alongside Mane and Salah in the front three.

Real Madrid also started with their first-choice players in every position. The return of Davide Alaba was a massive boost for the Spanish side as he came in for Nacho who played against Manchester City in the second leg of the semi-final. The legendary midfield trio of Kroos, Modric and Casemiro was picked by Ancelotti to do the job in yet another Champions League final as semi-final hero, Rodrygo was on the bench with Valverde starting as the right-winger.

Liverpool started the game on the front foot and got into some great positions, but their end product was not good enough. When they did get themselves in dangerous shooting positions, Courtois’ saves were exceptional.

Real Madrid had 2 out of 4 shots on target compared to Liverpool’s 9 out of 24. What was staggering was that 15 of Liverpool’s 24 shots were taken from inside of the box, which shows the excellence of Courtois and the lack of clinical edge by Liverpool’s strikers.

How Did Real Madrid Expose Liverpool?

In all the two-legged knockout ties that Real Madrid played, they had less than 45% of the ball. When they won the ball, they would counter-attack quickly by getting Vinicius in behind the opponents.

However, against Liverpool, they used a different strategy. Instead of starting counter-attacks as soon as they won the ball back, they kept the ball in their defensive third for some time. Real Madrid didn’t just play a long ball into the left flank for Vinicius to penetrate Trent but instead moved the ball among their defenders and midfielders.

The plan was to let Liverpool regain their shape but not to play through the lines. They kept it until playing a quick pass into the front players. For this, Modric and Kroos were constantly dropping deep to play that forward pass as Casemiro was keeping Fabinho engaged. With Kroos and Modric dropping, Carvajal and Mendy pushed higher to create overloads on both wings to confuse the Liverpool players.

Modric and Kroos played a lot of long balls into the wide areas to take advantage of the overloads. Real Madrid recorded 34 long balls, 11 more than Liverpool. Kroos played 8 long balls while Modric played 5 as the duo started to control the midfield as the game progressed.

The two Liverpool wingers were trying to press Modric and Kroos, who moved deeper, while Valverde and Vinicius came inside, which forced the Liverpool full-backs to get narrower. As a result, the wide areas were utilized by the runs of Mendy and Carvajal who were found brilliantly by long passes from Kroos and Modric.

Normally, teams simply play counter-attacking football against Liverpool. However, Carlo Ancelotti found an intelligent way to hurt this Liverpool side and his players executed it brilliantly.

Real Madrid’s defensive strategy was also effective. Even though Courtois had to make a few heroic saves, Madrid’s defending was solid. They denied space in-behind the defence which is a key area that Liverpool target in transitions. They forced Liverpool wider and restricted vertical passes and the back four were compact which forced Liverpool to play square passes.

As a result, there weren’t many penetrative passes as Salah and Diaz tried to beat Mendy and Carvajal but failed to get beyond the Real Madrid full-backs.

Of course, Liverpool created some great chances but failed to take them as they lost a game which they dominated. However, Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics had to be perfect for Real Madrid to get a result against this Liverpool side and it was a tactical masterclass by the experienced Italian manager.

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