How Barcelona defeated Real Madrid in Spanish Supercopa

If you go to Rio Ferdinand’s social media accounts, you’ll discover him sharing a clip from Sunday’s Spanish Supercopa closing, in which Barcelona dismantled Real Madrid 3-1 to win Xavi’s first Camp Nou trophy as a coach. The world-class former Manchester United sweeper pronounces, “The Xavi impact is here. I know what this feels like. Respect,” including a collection of distraught, crying emojis.

He’s referring to an undulating 44-pass transfer that included each single one in every of Barcelona’s gamers whereas the the Blaugrana are 3-0 up with 14 minutes left. ESPN’s personal Steve McManaman (a former Blanco himself) yelps: “Madrid aren’t even laying a glove on them!” The metronomic, shuttled possession ends solely when Rodrygo, understandably pissed off, scythes via Sergio Busquets for a foul.

– Report: Barcelona thrash Real Madrid
– Reaction: Gavi stars as Barca win Spanish Supercopa
– Highlights: Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid (U.S. solely)

The inference is that Ferdinand recognises and empathises with what Carlo Ancelotti’s males in white had been going via. After all, he himself misplaced two Champions League finals in the house of 24 months to Pep Guardiola’s Barca, who, as Sir Alex Ferguson memorably put it, would “pass you to death.”

The irony, although, is that for the remainder of the match — notably in a number of the methods Barcelona picked aside the drained, sluggish Spanish champions — was a really distant cousin of that Guardiola aspect. Put frankly, a number of of Xavi’s intelligent concepts would have been utterly forbidden beneath the strict, philosophically unbending man who’s now in cost at Manchester City.

After the match, Barcelona’s coach admitted: “The thing I’ll take away from this which satisfies me even more than lifting a trophy is how we won.” Well, listed below are three of the “how” from Sunday.

1. Launching the ball lengthy

Football is a continuously revolving hotbed of tactical ideas — well-established however underused and even forgotten concepts that get dusted down and utilized till too many individuals determine them out they usually return on the shelf. Worst of all for many who prefer to innovate and thrill, the quantity of computer- and video-based instruments obtainable to analyse and break down programs of play signifies that no matter a selected staff is doing to impose themselves will, after not too lengthy, face counter-remedies and asphyxiating methods popping up on an more and more common foundation.

So the context for watching Marc-Andre ter Stegen launch the ball lengthy on Sunday, both from objective kicks or from open play, must have in mind that rivals not use the identical methods to oppose this Barca staff — who haven’t got the calibre of gamers of a younger Xavi, Busquets, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves or Carles Puyol. Nevertheless, it is a stone-cold indisputable fact that again in the day, it could have been a reason behind shock, horror, dizzy spells and mood tizzies among the many teaching workers, gamers, media and followers if a defender or keeper had been hoofing the ball down the pitch as Barcelona did towards Los Blancos in Saudi Arabia.

Please be clear: This is just not a criticism — it is a easy truth. And it is written with respect.

Last weekend, after beating Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the Spanish capital, Xavi appeared on our LaLiga TV postmatch programme, and I requested him about how the German keeper had been ordered, mid-match, to kick lengthy and look to play the ball over Reinildo’s head for Ousmane Dembele to chase. Not sounding wholly enchanted with the query, the Barcelona coach answered. “You have to seek the space where it is,” Xavi mentioned. “When Atleti pressed us so high up the pitch, the space was in behind. and so we looked for that occasionally.”

A good reply.

Sunday evening towards Madrid noticed a big extension of this concept. Madrid neither pressed as excessive nor had been as athletically sharp as Atleti, which meant Barcelona did not have gaping house in behind into which they might launch the ball. And but Ter Stegen nonetheless kicked lengthy as a tactic — and it labored.

What emerged was that Barcelona had been requested to problem aerially towards a taller, greater aspect, after which to pounce on Madrid if they received possession. What that always seemed like was man-of-the-match Gavi (5-foot-8) leaping up towards Eder Militao (6-foot-1).

One such instance was in the forty first minute, when Ter Stegen thumped a free kick upfield and Gavi first beat Militao to the header after which, after Antonio Rudiger headed it again up-field once more, the 5-foot-8 Barcelona midfielder sprinted, jumped and beat Karim Benzema to the ball. But competing aerially, whereas essential, wasn’t the important thing level of what Xavi requested his staff to do.

Barcelona’s gamers, to a person, had been aggressive as quickly as anybody made contact with the ball dropping out of the sky. They launched themselves after free balls, 50/50 balls and (this may have given Xavi essentially the most satisfaction) they unanimously believed that even when a Madrid participant introduced the ball down after a teammate had received an aerial problem, he may nonetheless be efficiently pressed and robbed. Militao, Rudiger, Luka Modric, Ferland Mendy and Toni Kroos usually had clear possession after Ter Stegen (or Ronald Araujo) hoisted the ball downfield, however they had been then both bullied off the ball or rushed into making a cross that gifted possession away once more.

“Modern football is very rapid and, in certain moments, you have to play direct,” Xavi mentioned after he and his staff lifted the trophy. “Even more so when you have Robert Lewandowski in your team.”

It’s miles away from what was Guardiola’s system when in cost, nevertheless it’s an tailored model of how vertically Barcelona performed beneath Luis Enrique in 2014-15 once they received the Treble. Xavi guess that Madrid can be gradual, off type and prone to being harassed — even after having received aerial duels.

His gamble paid off.



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2. The press

Again, this can be a distant cousin of the system Xavi performed in at Barcelona. That thought of urgent in coordinated packs for a determinate variety of seconds however then retrenching into defensive form in case you do not win the ball is a distinct idea from what was so profitable towards Madrid in this closing. It’s controversial that not solely will there be groups who’re far more press-resistant than the European champions had been in Riyadh — Manchester United subsequent month, for instance — however that Madrid, as soon as match-sharp and totally staffed, can be too.

However, on Sunday evening, Xavi’s tactic banked on Ancelotti’s staff being sluggish and unable to manage. Bingo.

It’s not the excessive, daring “press from the front” that Guardiola imposed, both; it was extra like little explosions of stress everywhere in the pitch at any time when an opponent is dopey, is given a nasty cross or dallies. And it thrives on the ravenous starvation to compete for free possession as soon as the opponent is disrupted.

The first and third targets are examples. For the 1-0 objective, Rudiger, who’d simply taken a blow to the pinnacle from Thibaut Courtois’ elbow when leaping to compete for a cross, appears dizzy. Barcelona can see that Madrid’s again 4 is hopelessly positioned: Mendy and Dani Carvajal are virtually on the opposing touchlines, whereas 25 metres separate Rudiger and Militao. They know that in the event that they win possession, Madrid are desperately weak.

Thibaut Courtois inadvisedly rolls the ball to Rudiger, who’s not totally on the races but. He then provides a horrible cross to Eduardo Camavinga when Mendy is completely open and simple to search out. Busquets presses the French participant, wins a 50/50 ball — some refs may need blown for a foul — and from there onward, Dembele pounces, first-time passes to Pedri, who first-time passes to Lewandowski … and the Poland captain takes two very fast touches to arrange Gavi for 1-0.

“That first goal was so rapid, one-touch, and that’s something we’ve been working hard on and teaching them through videos,” Xavi mentioned.



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Barcelona supervisor Xavi says Barcelona freed themselves and did their greatest after a victory in the Spanish Super Cup closing towards Real Madrid.

The decisive third objective was related. Dani Ceballos, pressed by Dembele, is a bit overambitious in his cross to Militao. Gavi is immensely fast to see that the Brazilian participant is flat-footed, so he races throughout, wins a 40/60 problem and from there onward it is all easy, clear however fast passes till Pedri scores on the again publish.

There was extra irony in that the one time Madrid actually tried to match that pounce-and-press motion, it led to Barcelona’s second objective. Busquets fed Frenkie de Jong, and the Netherlands worldwide let the ball run throughout his physique in order that the transfer stayed fluid and quick, however doubtless, it seemed like he is likely to be in hazard of shedding possession. Both Militao and Carvajal surged ahead (Madrid’s midfield was lacking) however acquired their timing and positioning unsuitable so {that a} lunge cross from De Jong threads Gavi into splendid isolation to put the 2-0 objective on a plate for Lewandowski.

The press is a superb artwork when it really works, however a nice artwork. Not for the sluggish.

3. Barcelona’s formation

People can argue what they like, however this was solely very sometimes a 4-3-3 formation — one other once-sacrosanct philosophy at Barcelona.

When attacking and in most phases in possession, Xavi’s staff had been arrange in a 3-4-3 as a result of the opposite three defenders held a line and Alejandro Balde performed in midfield. There’s no query, although, that there have been lengthy intervals in the second half when Barcelona’s out-of-possession form was 4-4-2.

– Stream on ESPN+: Spanish Supercopa, Carabao Cup, extra (U.S.)

Firstly, that is not a sin if it is the proper tactic. Secondly, there was a transparent motive for Pedri being the one taking part in off Lewandowski in these phases. Dembele is taller and higher in the air, and when Barcelona had been required to compete for the ball performed lengthy by both keeper, the Frenchman stayed in midfield so as to add to Barcelona’s leaping energy.

All in all, it meant that Barcelona had been fairly slender, very often did not have two wingers stretching the pitch and did not look, in phrases of their tactical form, like the vast majority of Blaugrana groups of the previous 20 years. But, hey, so what? The ways had been sensible, they had been acceptable, they labored and Xavi’s staff received.

In that clip he shared on Twitter, Ferdinand noticed previous Barca and appreciated it. The remainder of the match, we noticed a distant cousin of previous Barca — nevertheless it labored.

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