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The secret behind Real Madrid’s efficiency in crossing situations

Real Madrid,crowned champions of La Liga and looking to do the double on Saturday, have excelled in scoring from crossing situations this season. It is indeed a mystery as to how they manage to score so many goals when many other teams using the same tactics struggle for goals. With 166 goals in the season 2016-17, Real Madrid have steamrolled opponents this season. Even more surprising is the fact that they have scored in every single game this season. In this article, I attempt to unravel the mystery behind their success in old-fashioned wingplay.

Quality players offer more precision

Real Madrid are not short of quality in any position. They have incredible squad depth which has enabled Zidane to try out different combinations throughout the season. However, he has not rotated much in the fullback positions. Marcelo and Carvajal have been pivotal in their gameplay with a lot of assists to their name. Their ability to deliver the crosses into the perfect area for the likes of Bale,Benzema,Cristiano,Morata,Asensio has led to many goals this season. Other than the fullbacks, Kroos is probably the best midfielder in the world in terms of ball distribution. His delivery,especially in dead ball situations is a treat for the Madrid forwards. 

Whenever a Real Madrid player finds himself on the ball especially on the wing and halfspaces, he aims to make the ball land in the baseline of the 6 yard box( the diagram below will illustrate the area I am talking about). Moreover, if the cross is outswinging, this makes it even more difficult for the keeper to come out and gather the cross. This is what makes Carvajal and Marcelo arguably the best fullbacks in the world. The curve they manage to get on the ball along with the accuracy of their crosses makes it a near impossible task for the goalkeeper to get to the ball. Apart from the curve they manage to generate in their crosses, they land the ball right on the edge of the 6 yard box for the Real Madrid forwards making a run into that area and we all know how good Bale,Benzema and Cristiano are in the air. Moreover, the forwards running to meet the cross manage to use their momentum when connecting their headers. This generates power in the headers which makes it difficult for the keeper to stop the goal.

Carvajal finds himself with the ball in the halfspace. Benzema knows where the cross will land. So he makes a blind side run towards the base of the 6 yard box where he expects the cross.

Carvajal delivers the perfect cross for Benzema to head in. Reina finds himself stranded because of the perfect location of the cross.

Isco looking to deliver a cross. Ronaldo expects it to land near the 6 yard box. So he gets on the defender’s blind side and attacks the space around the 6 yard box.

We all know what happens next. Ronaldooooooo with a bullet header into the net.

Marcelo delivers the cross while Morata makes his run into the edge of the 6 yard box.

The outswinging nature of Marcelo’s cross and the perfect delivery around the 6 yard box leads to a Morata goal.

Another chance to get the ball to land near the 6 yard box.

Same result. Keeper can do nothing to prevent the header.

Blind side movements from Madrid forwards

Another key factor in Madrid’s efficiency in crossing situations is the blind side movements of Ronaldo,Bale and Benzema. By making the blind side runs, they make it difficult for the defender to focus because he has to decide between chasing the forward or going after the ball. When such a scenario occurs especially with players like Ronaldo, who is blessed with immense aerial ability,the defender usually ends up on the losing side of the aerial duel at the far post. Thus, a huge chunk of Real Madrid’s goals are scored from crosses aimed at the far post. The blind side movements at the far post often leave them unmarked making it easier to score. Almost every forward, be it Bale,Ronaldo,Vazquez,Benzema,Morata or Asensio,who has played for Madrid this season has looked to make this blind side run. 

Blind side run from Bale means he gets a header in at the far post to score.

Same run,different player(Morata),same result.

What happens when the edge of the 6 yard area is blocked?

Real Madrid sometimes face teams who block the 6 yard area. They then look for cutbacks for players like Kroos and others looking to make late runs into the box. The images below show how Real Madrid exploit the spaces created in such scenarios.

Ronaldo finds himself free on the byline. But the edge of the 6 yard box is blocked. So he chooses the cutback option for Kroos.

Kroos makes no mistake with his shot.

This time Carvajal finds the 6 yard box blocked. So he has to go for the cutback

Benzema converts the cutback from Carvajal.

Conclusion

Although the tactics employed by Real Madrid are not unique, the quality of players they have enable them to execute these simple tactics very efficiently. Other teams fail because they do not have the same level of quality Real Madrid have. It will be interesting to see if Juventus come up with any tactics to stop Real Madrid from scoring on Saturday.

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