UEFA Champions League final: Marcelo vs. Salah is the marquee matchup

UEFA Champions League final: Marcelo vs. Salah is the marquee matchup

Marcelo is the most attack-minded fullback taking part in at the highest stage of soccer, which lends itself to plenty of predictions that he will likely be exploited in huge video games. Watch any Real Madrid recreation and also you’ll see Marcelo — left again in lineup placement solely — bursting ahead in a far more befitting a real attacking participant, seemingly with out regard for his defensive obligations. This leaves plenty of house behind him for the opposition to take advantage of, so, the pundits surmise, good groups will benefit from that.

Besides they haven’t.

In three consecutive years of Actual Madrid runs to Champions League finals, the membership has managed to deal with groups that tried to take advantage of this alleged weak point. They’ve definitively proven that this tactic is working, but it’s nonetheless introduced up earlier than each recreation, as if Marcelo’s ultra-attacking mindset is new info.

And now this tactic will get its final take a look at.

If any workforce could make Marcelo pay for his aggressive forays into the attacking third, it’s Liverpool, coached by Jürgen Klopp — the man who made prime pace, high-pressure “Heavy Metal Football” well-known. The Reds’ greatest participant, Mohamed Salah, has also been the world’s best this season. He’s world famend for his pace, and he performs on the proper wing, that means — in concept — he’ll be in place to run into the house that Marcelo vacates.

One in all two issues should occur on account of Saturday’s Champions League last match between Madrid and Liverpool: Both Salah exhibits the world tips on how to execute a tactic that the remainder of Europe’s huge golf equipment have failed at, or we are able to lastly perceive that this complete “exploit the space behind Marcelo” factor isn’t actually a factor in any respect.

Marcelo’s type is a couple of acutely aware alternative, not indiscipline

It’s a typical false impression about Marcelo that he’s incapable of holding his place and taking part in conservatively. We all know Marcelo can play conservatively as a result of he performed below Jose Mourinho. Throughout the Particular One’s reign at Madrid, Marcelo was an essential fixture in aesthetically appalling groups that did every thing they might to carry Barcelona to Zero-Zero attracts.

This season at Manchester United, Mourinho dropped Paul Pogba for the fully nondescript Scottish teen Scott McTominay, who has no discernible artistic abilities, with the intention to guarantee most boringness. Mourinho has zero tolerance for gamers who don’t take heed to his directions, and Marcelo discovered to play a approach that Mourinho tolerated.

Zinedine Zidane and different Actual Madrid managers have chosen to make use of Marcelo one other approach. They offer him artistic freedom to make performs from a task that often calls for positional focus. They do that as a result of they assume it helps Actual Madrid win video games.

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A left again who can do stuff like this is such an unbelievable weapon. It’s actually troublesome for any workforce to account for a defender with Marcelo’s stage of ability and creativity. The rewards of letting Marcelo prepare dinner often outweigh the dangers of groups attacking the house behind him.

How does Madrid cowl for him?

There’s no approach for a workforce to cowl fully for a vacated left again spot. An attacking workforce that makes the good selections and executes these selections completely will create a scoring likelihood on an assault the place the opposing left again is absent. However even the greatest groups in the world usually make selections which might be half-second sluggish or passes which might be six inches off the mark. Actual Madrid is adequate to close down counter-attacks which have the slightest errors.

A method they shut down counters into house which might be executed with lower than surgical precision is one most readers will likely be aware of — a goalkeeper coming off his line. Whereas Madrid’s Keylor Navas isn’t fairly as well-known for this as a few of the world’s nice sweeper keepers, however he’s nonetheless fairly good at it.

Here’s an example from last season’s Champions League, the place Marcelo will get caught up the pitch on a Madrid turnover.


It seems like Bayern has a ton of house to assault into, however their window for creating a transparent likelihood is truly very small. Thiago thinks he can play the ball effectively forward of Arjen Robben, however Navas is prepared. Earlier than the by ball is even performed, Madrid’s keeper is dashing off his line. The outcome? A straightforward clearance.



Madrid is additionally good at reacting to turnovers as a whole unit to cowl the house vacated by Marcelo. Here’s another example from the Champions League final, the place Paulo Dybala of Juventus is operating ahead with Marcelo trailing behind. Madrid reacts immediately, with left central defender Sergio Ramos stepping as much as problem, defensive midfielder Casemiro operating in direction of Marcelo’s left again spot, and proper central defender Raphäel Varane making ready to trace a run by striker Gonzalo Higuain.


As a result of Ramos noticed the Juve assault creating rapidly, he was in a position to step up and commit a foul on Dybala earlier than they might get going. Even when Dybala had been in a position to skip previous Ramos, Varane and Casemiro have been able to get into good positions.

Casemiro, Ramos and Varane are three of the most athletic defensive gamers in the world, they usually’re all excellent one-on-one defenders as effectively. Having the three of them collectively to decelerate a counter-attack is pretty much as good as having 4 serviceable gamers, even in odd-man conditions. When that trio is on the similar web page, they make big attacking areas disappear in a short time.

Madrid’s central midfielders, Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos, are additionally glorious in getting in positions to limit opponents’ passing lanes after possession is misplaced. They’re not on their defensive counterparts’ stage athletically and don’t press aggressively, however they know the place to face to delay a move that would spring a counter assault for a short second.

The little bit of additional time Modrić and Kroos’ positioning offers to Madrid’s defensive central trio is usually all they should take away any hazard. There could also be a dozen nice alternatives to assault the house behind Marcelo in a given match towards Actual Madrid, however the window to take these probabilities is solely open for a second at a time.

Klopp understands this, and doesn’t anticipate that it’ll be simple to attain towards Madrid. Here’s what he said to former Liverpool player Robbie Fowler in an interview with The Mirror.

Fowler: I have a look at Madrid, and assume, ­‘Marcelo ­brilliant’, however perhaps a weak point for them too, because it leaves house the place you’ve got power?

Klopp: You noticed it, everyone noticed it, appears apparent: ‘Marcelo, what an offensive player, but… he can’t defend’. They gained the Champions League twice, they’re once more in the last! Bayern Munich thought they have been the higher workforce in the two video games, however what is higher at the finish?

Actual want 4 probabilities to attain twice. Bayern wanted eight to attain one. They’re skilled from head to toe. There is no weak point. ­Soccer is not really easy which you could say, ‘If Marcelo makes that run, and we leave Mo Salah there in that space, Salah gets in against Ramos’.

However in case you watch Mohamed Salah, it’s simple to grasp why so many individuals are predicting he’ll exploit Marcelo on Saturday.

Salah is Madrid’s largest problem but on their left

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Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, whereas good, have common tempo. A peak Arjen Robben might need crushed Keylor Navas to the by ball above, however post-peak Robben isn’t fairly as fast. It’s simpler to win pure athleticism battles towards these gamers than it is towards Salah, who combines pure pace with top-notch anticipation higher than anybody not named Cristiano Ronaldo. His 44 targets this season are not any fluke — he will get off 4 photographs per recreation, most of them from central positions inside the 18-yard field, and he will get over half of his photographs on course.

Salah has been the good match for Klopp’s high-pressing techniques and has fashioned a near-telepathic partnership with ahead mates Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. When Liverpool creates a turnover, Salah is at all times able to pounce. He strikes early sufficient and runs quick sufficient that passes into his basic course wouldn’t have to be good. Play it into the proper 10-foot radius and Salah often wins the battle for the ball.

The Champions League last will likely be maybe the solely recreation this season the place Madrid’s monitor star defensive gamers wouldn’t have an athletic benefit over the attackers they’re attempting to comprise. If Zidane is going to make the most of his regular technique, with Marcelo pushing excessive up the pitch to create scoring probabilities, the trio of Casemiro, Ramos and Varane will should be sharper than ever.

One in all soccer’s huge questions will likely be answered definitively

Does Marcelo’s ultra-attacking mindset damage Actual Madrid?

Is Mohamed Salah the greatest attacker in the world proper now?

We should always be capable of put at the very least certainly one of these inquiries to relaxation after the Champions League last. If Salah actually has ascended to the Messi-Ronaldo aircraft of footballing existence, then absolutely he’ll power Marcelo to alter his type or punish Madrid in the house behind their left again. And if Madrid comprises Salah with Marcelo marauding ahead as common, changing into champions of Europe for a 3rd consecutive season, it is going to be clear that his taking part in type isn’t a weak point for Los Merengues in any respect.

This makes Saturday’s last a uncommon deal with — it’s an opportunity to see certainly one of world soccer’s largest questions answered with one recreation.

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