Real Madrid 3-0 Galatasaray: a comfortable win

April 4, 2013

The starting line-ups

Galatasaray attacked bravely – but left too much space for Real to break into.

Jose Mourinho used Michael Essien at right-back, with Karim Benzema rather than Gonzalo Higuain upfront.

Fatih Terim used exactly the same shape he used in the previous Champions League match at Schalke, in the same diamond formation.

Galatasaray had their moments, and created some decent chances – but Real’s creative players were given too much time on the ball.

Galatasaray attack

Real’s key strength is their counter-attacking ability, which means the vast majority of visiting sides at the Santiago Bernabeu prefer to sit back, soak up pressure, and hope that their centre-backs are able to deal with Real’s centre-forward.

But Galatasaray aren’t particularly strong defensively, and their major quality is in attack. With two recent Champions League winners – Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, two players who know Jose Mourinho well – plus the top goalscorer in the competition, Burak Yilmaz. Therefore, the Turkish champions pushed men forward.

Most obviously, both ’shuttlers’ – Selcuk Inan and Hamit Altintop – were given license to roam, leaving Felipe Melo minding the defence. In the early moments, it was amazing to see Emmanuel Eboue move forward from right-back, then look up and find five forward options waiting in the centre for the cross. Galatasaray essentially progressed to this stage because Schalke struggled to cope with their diamond, and it was unusual to see a side with such dominance in the centre of the pitch.

There were three ways Galatasaray’s four central midfielders worked nicely.

First, it helped Galatasaray get out of Real’s early press. Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria moved forward to pressure the Galatasaray back four, but with a 4 v 2 situation in the centre of midfield, there was always a simple forward pass for the Galatasaray centre-backs.

Second, throughout the game, the midfield dominance allowed the away side to compete in terms of possession (it was 50-50), and while the strategy was a little suicidal, it was refreshing to see an away side having a go against such illustrious opponents.

Third, the fact Inan, Altintop and sometimes even Melo moved forward to play around Alonso and Sami Khedira (with the centre-backs dealing with two Real forwards, and therefore unable to move up the pitch) meant Galatasaray had a few good attempts from long-range, having worked the 4 v 2 situation nicely.

Real space

However, Galatasaray failed to stop Real’s main attacking threats. There were, broadly, four problems.

First, Xabi Alonso wasn’t pressured when he received possession. With Galatasaray pushing men forward and Real playing on the break, Alonso’s passes were unusually direct – almost always straight passes into attack, rather than his customary diagonals, as Sami Khedira played a calmer role alongside. Considering Manchester United pressed Alonso to such great effect in the previous round, through the use of Danny Welbeck, it was surprising Galatasaray didn’t give special attention to Alonso.

Second, the use of only one holding midfielder, Melo, allowed Ozil to drift either side of him into pockets of space, and he link played and keep passing moves flowing in wide areas. Galatasaray almost always attempted tackles close to the touchlines.

Third, Eboue’s attacking instincts allowed Ronaldo space to break into. There were a few promising moments when the Ivorian right-back got forward – a one-two to get into a shooting position towards the end of the first half in particular – and Terim did instruct him to sit deeper midway through the first half, but Ronaldo still capitalised on the space, and had numerous shots on goal.

Fourth, even without Ozil’s movement, Galatasaray were exposed on the flanks. Real concentrated all their attacking down the touchlines, sometimes simply with their two wingers, and sometimes by getting the full-backs forward – Essien’s crossing had threatened even before he provided an assist for Benzema with a good deep cross.

Without the ball, Galatasaray moved their forwards into wider positions, effectively becoming 4-3-3 when out of possession for long periods, but their slow transitions to that defensive formation weren’t able to prevent Real breaking at speed.


Galatasaray’s four central midfielders caused Real some difficulties, but the away side were extremely open and vulnerable to Real’s counter-attacks. The home side’s strength down the flanks caused problems, and the fact their two major  creators, Alonso and Ozil, enjoyed such freedom from the outset was ominous. This tie is probably over.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,