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ANALYSIS: Three tactical mistakes Real Madrid made in Man City’s demolition

ANALYSIS: Three tactical mistakes Real Madrid made in Man City’s demolition
May 18
15:27 2023

Real Madrid, reigning UEFA Champions League (UCL) champions, were finally exposed in Europe by Manchester City, bookies’ favourites to claim the trophy. It was a night the Kings of Europe surrendered their crown to, perhaps, a relentless Man City side, suffering a 4-0 defeat on the night for a 5-1 aggregate loss.

While Pep Guardiola’s side was imperial in the way they silenced Real, especially the taming of Vinicius Jr. and Real’s attack by extension, Carlo Ancelotti made some decisions that exposed his side and this piece reviews three of such key shortfalls.

The Camavinga left-back experiment

Left-back position has proved a problem for Real Madrid this season, especially with Ferland Mendy, the first choice, suffering injuries and poor form. Thus, various players have auditioned for the position until Ancdlotti settled for Eduardo Camavinga, the 20-year-old midfielder who has been praised for his versatility.


Against Man City on Wednesday night, however, he was finally exposed, with Bernardo Silva running rings around him and City’s ball-playing midfielders targeting his side. The young French international was caught out of position severally and such instance led to the first goal, with Silva finding all the space to receive Kevin de Bruyne’s pass before slotting home. Time to end the experiment and return the mercurial youngster to his central midfield role.

Tired legs in the midfield

Man City lined up with Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, de Bruyne, Silva, and John Stones in midfield; five players against the tired legs of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, and a Federico Valverde who has played most of his season as an inverted winger that tucks in to deny teams space from the front and launch quick counters when possession is turned over.


This meant a straightforward day in the office for Man City’s midfield which enjoyed several passing lanes due to the extra men, as Guardiola’s side hugged 79% of possession at some point. The match required a Casemiro-type player alongside Kroos, and perhaps Aurelien Tchouameni who was bought to replace the departed Brazilian should have started, to squeeze the space for City’s passes. His presence could likely also have denied Silva the space for his second goal.

Rudiger’s absence

Guardiola has been labelled an excessive thinker for years now, bottling winnable matches with strange player selections or tactical set-ups, but it was Ancelotti’s night to wear that tag.

Antonio Rudiger had a wonderful first leg silencing Erling Haaland but was not called upon here. While the German can also play across the back-four, the former Chelsea defender who was pivotal in Man City’s 2021 UCL final loss was left on the bench for a returning Eder Militao who delivered a stinker, getting pulled out of position and failing to lead his defence against City’s juggernauts. Perhaps, Rudiger at left-back would have reduced Silva’s influence on a flank City exploited throughout the 90 minutes with joy.



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