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Mar 1, 2019


Despite the 3-0 drubbing handed out to their arch-rival, Barcelona has to introspect why they had to suffer so much in defense.



3 Reasons Why Barcelona Struggled Defensively against Real Madrid? #Barca #FCBarcelona

Santiago Bernabeu has been one of the toughest arenas to visit as a team in the whole of Europe unless you are the current Barcelona team. Somehow FC Barcelona appears to have mastered the art of taming Santiago Bernabeu. In recent seasons, we have seen more success at the Bernabeu than in Camp Nou when it comes to Clasicos.


So when the match ended 3-0 in Barcelona's favor on Wednesday night, none was surprised. After all, Barcelona has been the better team in this season, and they were playing at their favorite training ground! But the scoreline shouldn't mask the problems which were on display, especially concerning tactics involved.





Barcelona won the Copa del Rey tie against Real Madrid solely due to the superiority of the players at disposal. In the 2nd leg, for most of the part, especially in the first half, we were struggling to compete. Nelson Semedo whose performance in the first warranted the big question ( Has Semedo Silenced all his Critics with Stunning Effort against Real? ) was a shadow of a player. He was getting overrun at will and now everyone questions whether he has the necessary skillset for defending!


The reality was that it wasn't Semedo's lack of skillset which left him exposed, but the strange tactics employed by his coach. The way the team was set up, he was bound to get exposed. Vinicius Junior is a brilliant player, but the tactics employed made him look much better.


Remember, this was a player who was in Semedo's pocket in the first leg of the tie. He still created a problem or two, courtesy of the enormous talent he posed. But Semedo had him cut down to size. But here it was quite the opposite, Semedo was getting overrun as if he never existed. What exactly changed in the setup?


1. Allowing Reguilón to combine with Vinícius Júnior


Real Madrid left-back, Reguilón is one of the most exciting young players to make his mark this season. This match showcased why he has practically sidelined Marcelo this season. Whenever he combined with Vinícius, it was a horrible experience for our defense, especially for Semedo.


But then why such a situation never arose in the first leg? Is Marcelo a spent force now? The truth is quite the opposite. In the first leg, there was the presence of this one player which cut down the threat from the left to size. And that was Malcom.


It wasn't like Malcom does so much well defensively, but the very fact that he was lying ahead on the right as a threat pinned back Marcelo a lot. A threat like that never existed in this game. Lionel Messi who started on the right naturally drifted to right. That allowed Reguilón to join Vinícius in the attack at will.


As I wrote in the preview, had we played a 4-5-1 with two wingers, the left back would have been pinned back at will. If the triangle between Messi, Malcom/Dembele and Semedo developed in the right, the torture would have been for Reguilón instead of Semedo.






2. Valverde had the wrong Attitude going into the Match?


For me, this was much more crucial than the first point. It wasn't clear what was Valverde trying to achieve with the line-up he had in the match. The victory was the goal, but how remained a ball of confusion. In the buildup, we heard news coming out via Catalan media that Valverde will use Roberto to give a bit of cover to Semedo.


When we saw the starting lineup, we felt that those rumors were becoming true. In a normal 4-3-3 with Sergi Roberto is not a bad option, especially with Arthur missing. But his job was assigned a defensive job and that made sure that there was no threat on the right.


It was the worst attitude with which a Coach can approach such a crucial game. "Offense is the Best Form of Defense". This may be one of the most misused phrases in football, but in our case, this should have been the case. It wasn't the first time we were facing a flying winger on the left, especially at Bernabeu.


We have faced it many times. The best memory of it was in Guardiola's last season in charge. In that match in the initial fifteen-twenty minutes, the combination of Ronaldo and Marcelo was tearing us apart. Guardiola being a canny tactician, did a small change. He pushed Dani Alves, a bit further on the pitch, which meant suddenly he and Messi were creating havoc on the right and Marcelo was getting pinned back.



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3. Using Messi on the Right when we Have Dembele and Malcom


This is a repetition of what I have written a couple of weeks back ( 3 Reasons Why Messi should not Start on Right? ). In Dembele and Malcom, we have two players who could tear apart opposition with their pace. And they both look so natural on the right.


But still, we insist on using them in another position. One reason is our insistence of using the 4-3-3 formation. We should have changed the formation long back. The 4-3-3 was the perfect formation when we had Xavi and Iniesta in our side. But is the situation similar now?


Now with Lenglet emerging as quite a quality defender, we can even think of having a 3-5-2 formation or a 3-4-3 formation. The pace of Dembele is an asset to have and that will definitely open up more space for Messi to operate.


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