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Liverpool vs Real Madrid Pre-Match Tactical Analysis

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UEFA Champions League Finals: Liverpool vs Real Madrid Pre-Match Tactical Analysis as Jurgen Klopp takes on Carlo Ancelotti at the Paris Stadium today

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool vs Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid is a UEFA Champions League final for the ages. The stage is set, and one of these great clubs will become *CHAMPIONS* of Europe yet again. Let me do a massive thread on this game.

We at BraggsSports will you through an in-depth Pre-match tactical threat of how both teams function before the champions league final match kickoff.

Liverpool vs Real Madrid Pre-Match Tactical threat

Build Up Play

Liverpool build play in a narrow 4-3-3 shape with two second phase #8 profiles. As such, these #8’s have a large responsibility of taking part in the build-up play but also at taking up spaces between the lines. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita are comfortable at both.

Real Madrid press in a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 shape which is fluid. Luka Modric is the midfielder who is tasked with pressing highest in the midfield 3 to close off the passing lane to or directly press the opposition’s #6

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Tactical Analysis on Real Madrid

Real Madrid are good at pressing and can absolute cause Liverpool issues in this regard. They are also fluid in the sense that the block often resembles a narrow 4-3-3 type shape too with the likes of Valverde or Vinicius Junior coming inside to press the centre backs.

In the below picture Asensio comes inside from the typical settled 4-5-1 mid-block Real Madrid defend in to press PSG’s LCB. Carvajal then pushes up behind him to press the left back with Militão coming across to press the left winger, thus leaving no spare men in the build-up.

liverpool vs Real Madrid in build up playReal Madrid’s pressing is largely fluid but when the game starts and is subsequently at its most frantic period as energy levels are high, that’s when they’re most dangerous. They forced Guardiola’s Man City to pump the ball long in the early exchanges thanks to their pressing quality.

However, if the opposition are technically secure to build through Madrid’s press OR to keep the ball off the back of a duel win in midfield, Madrid drop back into a 4-5-1 mid-block. All three of PSG, Chelsea and Man City pinned Real Madrid back into this block for large periods.

Real Madrid settles in a midfield 5Although Real Madrid press well when the game is frantic and when the opposition build play deep in their own half, they’re not so good at getting back up the pitch through structural pressing quality alone. In fact, their 4-5-1 block is structurally flawed in settled pressing moments.

A 4-5-1 block allows the opposition centre backs to have lots of time on the ball which further pins the defensive block back. This can make it difficult for Madrid to get back up the pitch through pressing alone. Of course they can in moments, but it doesn’t occur reliably.


If Real Madrid players run the risk of attempting to press chaotically to get close to the opposition centre backs (which can of course work if a mistake occurs), they leave players free in midfield with acres of space to operate in which further increases Madrid’s risk of conceding.

As such, Real Madrid are often reliant on their technical quality to get back up the pitch. The thing is, they’re one of the best technical teams in the world. However, even with that elite technical quality across the team, they still largely struggle to get out.

Real Madrid run risk to attack opposition in numbersBut what makes Madrid special is that when they do get out or successfully press high they possess many threats. They can kill you in behind when the opposition is in defensive transition with runs from deep (Vinicius), sustain pressure & create or counterpress off the back of it.

It’s in those moments where Real Madrid attack in waves which is why they have won so many games in short spurts in this season’s Champions League – because of their technical level which enables them to get out and they then counterpress high to sustain that pressure.


This is so useful because Real Madrid games often start well for them because the game is of high intensity but when that intensity calms down (assuming the opposition pins them back into a 4-5-1 by performing well technically), they then struggle for large periods.

Then, out of nowhere, after long periods of domination from the opposition, Real Madrid spring into life and completely change the momentum of the game from being controlled to causing chaos which they’re in total control of as they counterpress off the back of sustained pressure.

That complete switch of sustained pressure with time and space on the ball for the central defenders to dealing with relentless pressure when the game was seemingly easy has proven too much for Man City, PSG, and Chelsea to handle. Real Madrid have weapons like Camavinga to inject that.

So often Camavinga comes off the bench to inject fresh energy and elite technical quality into Real Madrid’s midfield. His usefulness is off the charts off the bench and he’s a big reason as to why Real Madrid have come from behind to win in each of their Champions League wins this season.

But when discussing the game, it can’t be solely centered around Real Madrid because Liverpool can obviously cause them big problems too. So, when Real Madrid build play, they play in a similar manner to Liverpool with two second phase-based #8’s, but Liverpool press in a narrow 4-3-3.

Tactical Analysis on Liverpool

Liverpool are similarly fluid to Madrid in the way they press in terms of effectiveness in the deepest phase, but where Liverpool also excel is in relation to pressing in settled play. The narrow positioning of the wide players enables them to get close to the central defenders.

Liverpool’s willingness to step up, hold a high line & play offside traps also means that even when the opposition successfully play through the lines Liverpool still hold aggressive positioning within the last line. This can be risky, but it highlights their relentless pressing.

Liverpool are physically and structurally one of the best pressing teams in the world but their insistence on maintaining a high line means they must be technically secure when they get the ball. If they’re not, play breaks down in a position of weakness and they’re exposed.

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So, for example, if Liverpool lose the ball in settled play just inside the opposition’s half, they’re in a situation where they’re holding a high line with no pressure on the ball. That means they can be killed with runs in behind from balls from deep.

Liverpools settled shape high line defensive flawsThat’s why Liverpool have to maintain pressure on the ball at all times and that is only enabled if they are good technically to force Madrid back and be in a position where if play breaks down they can counterpress right on top of them. If not, Madrid will kill them in behind.

Liverpool are primarily good technically, but the presence of someone like Thiago is absolutely imperative in a game like this. However, even Thiago is prone to making silly errors in possession and Liverpool can have spells in games where they get dominated (Villarreal away).

That period of chaos was down to the fact that Liverpool kept giving the ball away so couldn’t press effectively and were subsequently constantly exploited in behind. Playing long is something both teams will do but it’s about the technical quality off the back of the duels.

However, Madrid’s technical quality obviously matters a lot too as even in situations where Liverpool typically press well, a moment of quality from one of Madrid’s many elite technicians can see Liverpool’s press bypassed, them holding a high line, and Vinicius free in behind.

It is inevitable that Vinicius will get joy in behind when considering how Liverpool play, but it’s about limiting that, although that’s easier said than done against an elite technical team. However, again, it’ll be difficult for Madrid to get out due to their passive 4-5-1.

As such, the most important factor for Liverpool is to create that “attack vs defence” theme where Madrid are stuck in their own half, find it hard to get out when playing out from the back, & can’t get back up the pitch to press unless it’s through incredible technical quality.

That will occur if Liverpool are technically secure to pin them back and are their usual selves in the press. Madrid will of course have moments within that general control but it’s about sustaining it for as long as possible & preventing Madrid from getting out & gaining control.

Ideally, Liverpool need to create that “attack vs defence” situation, capitalise on it by scoring, and when Madrid inevitably get sustained pressure of their own, do everything possible to evade their counterpress and prevent them for creating the chaos they previously have.


That can be achieved through directly exploiting them in transition by using the likes of Díaz, Mané and Salah to get up the pitch or through technical quality to play through the lines and pin Madrid back again. It’s a supremely difficult task, but it’s what Liverpool face.

The most difficult thing for Liverpool is not just dealing with that inevitable wave of sustained pressure and counterpressing and the quality the likes of Benzema have in those moments, but primarily Vinicius’ danger when Liverpool don’t have pressure on the ball.

Konaté will likely start to use his recovery speed to do everything possible to get back against Vinicius if he successfully evades Liverpool’s offside trap, but little pressure on the ball with a high line against the likes of Modric and Kroos who’ will feed Vinicius Junior through is scary.

Overall, it’s an incredibly close game. Madrid will undoubtedly have moments when the game is frantic and Liverpool will attempt to create that “attack vs defence” theme to mitigate them once the intensity of the game naturally wanes. That’s the key to success for Liverpool.

In those moments Liverpool can create through pressing, counterpressing, sustained pressure, combination play, you name it, but they must do everything possible to make the game that theme as opposed end-to-end because the high line will get exposed that way.

Real Madrid will of course have success when building through Liverpool’s press but as I said, it’s about mitigating those moments and in the worst case scenario hoping Vinicius (or someone else) is offside or that Allison can bail them out (as he often does in 1v1’s).

Apart from that, Liverpool need to be brave and not succumb to Real Madrid’s inevitable periods of sustained pressure when they keep the ball, push Liverpool back, and counterpress off the back of it. Liverpool have got to keep the ball through technical quality or their outlets.

The game is more than fitting in a number of ways because there’s elite level players all over the pitch but there’s also an elite tactical battle on display too with regards to it being incredibly tight. Anyone would be a fool to rule out both Liverpool and Real Madrid in this final.

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1 comment

Soul May 28, 2022 at 11:03 pm

Nice analysis…unfortunately Liverpool had huge issues controlling the midfield and that really caused them.


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