LaLiga with sport
The importance of winning the ball back for your team cannot be understated, but the decision made once possession has been regained is perhaps of even greater significance. The first pass that is played is vital to a side’s success in launching a counter-attack or it might be a case of playing a safe pass towards your own goal before building up a more intricate move.
Real Madrid are the league’s standout performer in the recovery stakes. However, Casemiro brings far more to the Real Madrid side than purely breaking up the opposition’s play. The Brazilian lies third in the league charts for the number of forward passes played after winning the ball back, a tactic that is central to success of the Blancos’ counter-attacking play.
It’s increasingly common in the modern game for teams to be adept at combining in tight spaces as they seek to open up opposition defences. That said, there are also game scenarios in which players take a more direct approach and are able to call on their power and accuracy to overcome opposition lines with an individual run. One team that excels in this particular department are Real Madrid, who lie top of the LaLiga Santander standings for carries that break the opposition’s midfield line, as illustrated by Fede Valverde in this example, in which the Uruguayan showcases his ability in this area.
When a team relinquishes possession, it’s a case of moving quickly in an effort to snuff out the threat the opposition may pose. In this particular department, it’s worth highlighting the efforts of RCD Mallorca, whose mental and physical exertions after losing the ball make them one of the division’s top five teams in the pressing after losing the ball stakes as the islanders display fierce commitment in the transition between attack and defence.
If we had to pick out just one aspect of high-flying CA Osasuna’s game in the early weeks of the season it would have to be their mightily impressive counter-press. The Navarran outfit, who have proved to be one of the surprise packages so far this term, are a
well-oiled machine when it comes to counter-pressing as they completely suffocate their opposition. With this in mind, it comes as little surprise that the Rojillos lie top of the division’s distance covered after losing the ball charts.
Once you win the ball back, there are a number of options. You can secure possession with a safe pass, but you can also try to quickly take advantage of the spaces left open by your opponents in their attacking phase. Playing the ball forward as soon as you win it back is riskier, because it is more difficult to pick out a teammate, but it confers a clear advantage: the opposing team has less time to reorganise their defensive block. In this regard, we must stress FC Barcelona's ability to play forwards after winning the ball back: 75% of their passes after regaining possession moved towards the opposing goal on the last matchday, a figure worth noting given that they are a team who play a possession-based game, where a safe pass after winning the ball back is more common.
ElClasico brings two of Spanish football's rivals par excellence head to head. FC Barcelona host Real Madrid as the team with greatest possession ratio, initiative and attacking build-up play in the competition, or in other words, a team that attempts to control the game through possession. Ronald Koeman's charges hold the top spot when it comes to the number of passes, and are second on the percentage of possession accumulated in the opposing half. However, it is not all about keeping the ball. Once they lose it, this Barça team have shown that they work hard to win it back: they are among the top three on the percentage of recoveries in the opposing half. The effectiveness of their pressing after losing the ball reduces the need to sit back and defend, minimising the threat to their goal: they are among the top five teams who concede the fewest shots.
They take on their arch-rivals, Real Madrid, who head into the clash with their attacking effectiveness as their trump card. Los Blancos are the side who unleash the most shots in the competition, and the one who manage to place the greatest percentage of their shots on target. The outfit overseen by Carlo Ancelotti is also the one with the greatest effectiveness in all of LaLiga Santander both when it comes to building up the play and finishing: they are the team who need the fewest shots to score a goal. Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr, among others, are managing to convert the team's attacking potential into a veritable onslaught for opposing defences and goalkeepers. They are on fire up front!
The time for LaLiga's stars to do battle has arrived. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face each other in the most eagerly awaited match of the season. Los Azulgranas stand out for their ability to gain ground in each of their attacking moves: they are the team who advance the greatest distance per possession in all of LaLiga Santander. Koeman's men are also second in the competition in terms of involving the most players in each possession, as well as the team who make the most double-pressure passes per match. All of these metrics demonstrate their intent and ability to link-up in tight spaces.
Los Blancos, meanwhile, are the team who have scored the most goals in the competition, by some margin, notching up a total of 22. Real Madrid serve up a more direct game than their opponents, showing an outstanding efficiency: they are the team with the greatest percentage of dangerous possessions ending in a goal. Their attacks are characterised by their power and explosiveness, as the team in LaLiga Santander who perform the most maximum-intensity actions; i.e., moves where they run at least 10 metres at over 28 km/h. They are also among the top three teams in the division who perform the most very high-intensity actions; i.e., who perform the most actions at over 24 km/h (covering at least 15 metres).
The French striker goes into the match against FC Barcelona as LaLiga Santander's standout player so far. Benzema is the top goalscorer and the top assist-provider in the championship, with nine goals and seven assists in just eight games, and he plays a direct role in almost 70% of his team's goals. He is also the player who fires off the most shots in the competition. As for his influence on the build-up, it is worth stressing that he makes the most passes in the attacking zone in the entire division. In this regard, he has an average of 2.3 teammates ahead of him at the moment when he releases his passes, showing that, in addition to his goalscoring, he is hugely important in the final stretch of his team’s build-up play. He also averages 2.3 opponents ahead of him at the moment of regaining possession, playing a decisive role in Real Madrid’s moves after winning the ball back. Karim Benzema is the driving force of Los Blancos' attack. He is a true leader and will try to guide his teammates to victory at the Camp Nou on Sunday.