COPA | REAL MADRID - BARCELONA

Barcelona tactics for Real Madrid revolve around stopping Vinicius

The Real Madrid striker caused problems for Barça in the first leg and Valverde is determined to limit the damage he can cause.

Barcelona had a problem called Vinicius in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final at the Camp Nou. Taking that into account and the fact that Valverde was satisfied with the defensive work of his players in the Champions League game against Olympique de Lyon, it’s likely that in the return leg on Wednesday night at the Bernabéu he’ll reinforce the right hand side with Sergi Roberto, sending Arturo Vidal to the bench. In addition to playing a decent 45 minutes in Seville, Sergi Roberto brought a touch of vitality. His presence brings a guaranteee of a solid shift, similar to Vidal, but with more time and thoughtfulness on the ball. Sergi Roberto is better drilled in Barça’s style of play than the Chilean, who brings heart, aggression and a lot of running, but is somewhat chaotic. Valverde wants order at the Bernabéu. He knows Barça need a goal but what he wants is control of the game, which his men didn’t often enjoy in the first leg. And, above all, to protect the wing where Vinicius enjoyed himself so much on his Clásico debut on February 6.

Vinicius in the first leg

Vinicius was Real Madrid's danger man against Barcelona

In the first leg Malcom started, with Messi on the bench, with the idea of offering more help in defence, but despite that, Vinicius had a number of one-on-ones in dangerous positions. The Brazilian had a 54% success rate in his attacking moves (29/54) and although his dribbling only came off 38% of the time he was a constant danger to Barcelona.

Valverde took note of the young Brazilian that day and has continued to analyse Madrid in their subsequent games, where Vinicius has continued to perform well and is the leading light for Solari’s side - in particular being the beacon for the team when things aren’t going well for them.

Vinicius' one weakness - lack of goals

That said, there are few who have failed to notice his lack of a killer touch in front of goal, although he’s threatening in any moment to suddenly score a barrel-load, rather like Van Nistelrooy’s comment about goals being like ketchup and once you get one the rest come flying out too. In 25 games with the first team Vinicius has only scored three. The assistants at Barcelona whose job is to analyse their rivals have given the following recommendations to Semedo and Piqué, the players who will be policing Vinicius: the Real Madrid player has a marked tendency to move inside looking for his better (right) leg, hence the instruction to Semedo to force him out wide and to the bye-line forcing him to use his left leg, which is less precise.

Barcelona respect Vinicius

What is certain is that Vinicius has already earned maximum respect from Barça and the fact that Valverde is focusing, in part, his tactics on him, says a huge amount about the Brazilians startlingly quick progression in elite football. Valverde's idea is to set his side up to appear as a 4-3-3 but, in fact, to play with a 4-4-2 in which Sergi Roberto helps Semedo when Vinicius appears. And, yes, Dembélé will have to monitor Carvajal’s attacks. That Valverde will have two men covering that side has three explanations: Vinicius, the solid defensive game in Lyon and to provide freedom for Messi. With the 4-4-2 the Argentinean, who is already exempted from most defensive duties, can play in more central areas without worrying about what’s behind him.

Barcelona to focus their attacks on the left

Barça’s attacking game, then, will be more focused on the left, where Alba and Dembélé will be stationed, with Messi acting as the lethal creator. Valverde has, however, shown in recent days that he has the ability and willingness to change in an instant. In Seville he completely changed the attacking tactics of the team - in the first half Alba on the left was taken apart by Navas, so he switched in the second to having Sergi Roberto and Dembélé attack on the right, with Messi alongside them. The result: from 2-1 to 2-4.

Valverde feels Barcelona are looking good, but he’s wary. In addition to Vinicius, Benzema was a thorn in their side in the first half of the first leg. He needs good communication between the central defenders and Busquets, to avoid the Frenchman connecting with Vinicius. Stopping the ball circulating between Kroos and Modric is another of his aims. Valverde has a plan.