Juventus 0-1 Real Madrid UEFA Champions League Final 1997/1998

The first half

Marcelo Lippi lined up with a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation. The back three consisted of Moreno Torricelli, Mark Iuliano, and Paolo Montero. Didier Deschamps and Edgar Davids was played as the 6, flanked by Angelo Di Livio and Gianluca Pessotto respectively on the right and left side. Zinedine Zidane was the 10 standing behind the striker duo of Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi.

On defensive phase, both wide men dropped deeper and transformed Juventus defensive shape to a 5-3-2’ish. Juventus man marked Real’s forward with a man-oriented zonal marking variant. Zinedine Zidane played as the catalyst between the front line and the players behind it. He occupied the space between the 8 and forward. Most of his defensive positioning was battle area-oriented, meant Zidane stood, instinctively, where he considered as the best area to occupy on. So, when Juventus regained possession, he would have a better access to the ball to begin the attacking transition.

On attacking phase, Di Livio and Pessotto moved forward and put themselves on the same line with three Juventus central midfielders and formed a five midfielder chain. The purpose was simple, played it as quick as possible to reach the striker duo. In many occasions, Juventus players looked to be one dimensional, that often be seen in their on possession situation : ball circulation, passing timing, and several examples of individual dribbling.

Jupp Heynckes lined up his team with a more dynamic shape. It was the combination of 4-4-2 box and asymmetric 4-3-3. Clarence Seedorf, Raúl Gonzalez, Predrag Mijatovic, and Fernando Morientes were swapping and made the attacking movement became more unpredictable. The “more fixed” positioning structure belonged to the four defenders and the twin sixes, which consisted of Fernando Hierro, Manuel Sanchís, Christian Panucci, Roberto Carlos (the back four), Christian Karembeu and Fernando Hierro (the twin 6).

initial-shape
Initial shape from the first 20 minutes.

In passive situation (opponent’s long goal-kick, for example), Real was in 4-4-2 mode, with the sixes was flanked by Seedorf and Raúl. The difference was, Raúl and Seedorf formed a staggering wide-men shape. Seedorf positioned himself deeper than Raúl. Consequently, Roberto Carlos should be more spatial aware because the Brazilian needed to make sure there was enough cover on the space between him and Raúl.

In a settled defensive phase of open play, both Raúl and Seedorf helped the full backs defending the wide areas. How far the advanced wide-men dropped deep was depending on the progress of the opponent’s attack. There was different demand of defensive involvement between Raúl and Seedorf, as they were naturally different player, let alone were tasked with different hybrid role. Raúl was a striker-wide midfielder, whilst Seedorf was more to a wide-central midfielder.

Hierro and Sanchís man marked, respectively, Del Piero and Inzaghi, in man-oriented zonal marking. The more fixed (with “ “) term, as mentioned above, had a specific meaning. It was actually not a fully-fixed one, as Hierro, as one of the central defender, had to deal with the long goal kick or any attacking ball (with his aerial duel, tackle, interceptions, etc) coming to the-in-between-area-of-midfield-and-back-line. It was an appropriate assignment as it allowed him playing to his strength. Manuel Sanchís positioning was more “quiet”, as he didn’t roam as much as Hierro did. When Hierro moved forward for such duty, Panucci and Carlos tucked in and sit extremely narrow forming a compact covering. In most of such situation, Panucci replacing Hierro in man marking Del Piero.

real-initial-defensive-movement
Real initial defensive-related movement.

Thumbs up for this Heynckes’ Real defensive play. They lined-up and defended with 4-4-2 as the basic formation, a formation which main weakness is the un-presence of the defensive pocket (the 6) and attacking pocket (the 10). Things could have been getting worse as Juventus’ played with three central midfielders which potentially creating numerical superiority as they got more presence in the central area. To overcome such critical issue, Heynckes :
(1) Instructed all his wide players to sit narrow. The full backs, when possible, positioned themselves more narrowly than the advance wide men.
(2) For some situation, instructed any of his nine to drop off. To avoid the attacking pocket being numerically inferior.
(3) Instructed one of his central defenders to move into the in between area of the back or even the middle line to give adequate cover to the ball battle on more advanced areas.
(4) Created a ball-oriented shifting, in order to able his players to compress the space and built a horizontal compact low block defense, as shown below.

real-ball-oriented-shifting
Real ball-oriented shifting.

Seedorf and Raúl as shown by the arrows, tucked in to create a compact horizontal line. This created two potential advantages that could be gained by Real. First, complying to the requirement of limiting Juventus offensive central access (means Real had to be more compact horizontally). Second, as Seedorf and Raúl movement oriented to the positioning of Zidane and Pessotto, who occupied the wide area, should Zidane or Pessotto moved centrally to the battle field, Raúl or Seedorf had been on the ideal position which giving them good access to Zidane and Pessotto.

Panucci sit more narrowly, as discussed earlier, to Seedorf position, because he needed to help Sanchís covered the vacant central area, as the Captain moved up to man mark Del Piero. Roberto Carlos stayed slightly wider to keep track of any Di Livio attack. Karembeu and Redondo stayed centrally to block all the central passing and, at once, dealt with any of Davids-Deschamps movement.

As you can see from the diagram, Real were not on strictly man-to-man-marking. It was a ball-oriented shift with a man-oriented zonal-marking approach, especially when it got into the dangerous area of zone 5.

So, what was the next situation here? Redondo made a minor mistake by over-zealous pressing Deschamps, who managed to find Del Piero with his pass. Thanks to the combination of Panucci narrow positioning (which helped Hierro put a intense pressure on Del Piero) and Hierro defensive capability of defending the intermediate-defense, as the Spanish managed to sliding tackle Del Piero and stopped his “with ball run”.

When beginning their deep development, the sixes would stay deep. One of them moved slightly forward only if it possible to do so. In this situation, the full backs held their position on the deeper area. This is the classic sense of build-up, an old-school one. No salida lavolpiana there. In the build up, the role of both full backs was not as crucial as nowadays ones. The full backs was mostly needed in the wide attack (3rd phase), as the team were relied on their crossing or pacey run rather than their ability at building a save ball circulation.

Seedorf and Raúl moved forward vertically, with Seedorf was more gradually. Seedorf movement was ball progress-oriented whilst Raúl was more aggressive.

Here was the defensive issue of Real occurred. Raúl attacking positioning had its downside effect, as shown in the situation from minute 6. In an attacking-transition, Zidane occupied the left area of Real middle-line. He received the ball easily as the space was huge. Whilst the right wide area was properly covered by Seedorf. Fortunately for Real, Zidane missed his pass to Del Piero and resulted a throw in. Another example. Minute 07:39, once again Juventus made use of this wide opened area. Raúl roamed to the right flank. Along with Morientes and Mijatovic, they were in the Juventus defensive third when Juventus managed to stop Real attack. A pass from Deschamps reached Di Livio on the left flank. He immediately directly passed it to Inzaghi. Fortunately, again, for Real, Inzaghi was accused of off-side.

defensive-issue-on-left-midfield
07:39. Defensive issue on left midfield.

In their defensive play, as aforementioned, Juventus formed a five men behind basic shape. Di Livio and Pessoto on the flank, with Torricelli, Iuliano, and Montero as the central trio. Didier Deschamps defended the central defensive pocket. Davids helped him by shifting centrally or even far to the right half space when necessary. Zidane, at most of his time, positioned himself higher than the pivot duo. As discussed earlier, he stood on the position where he might have a better access to the ball.

juventus-defense-minute-29
Juventus defense from minute 29.

Di Livio and Pessotto dropped deep and formed a back five chain. Deschamps and Davids covered the central area. Whilst Davids defensive positioning oriented to Raúl movement, Deschamps held his position to deal with Roberto Carlos. The ball was passed into the area but headed away by Iuliano, Zidane took the second ball and directly one-touched it to Pessotto.

Here was the other (attacking) issue occurred. Pessotto dribbled it forward in (too) high speed. He directly passed it to Del Piero which, in turn, was too easily intercepted by Hierro. Whether it was the deliberately way of attacking tactic or not, it was not a good example of individual anticipation and decision making. In this transition, (1) Pessotto moved vertically (too) fast, as Zidane and the other midfielders positioning was deeper than him and (2) Real players tracked back quickly and overloaded the area where Pessotto trying to get into. When Pessotto passed the ball to Del Piero, there were three Real players (Karembeu, Panucci, Hierro) plus Redondo surrounding the striker, no wonder Hierro could easily beat him.

The situation of Di Livio pass to Inzaghi from the 07 :39 was another example of Juventus attacking issue. Tactically, the “missing piece” was Di Livio himself. With so much space around him, Di Livio made a premature decision when he opted to release a direct pass to Inzaghi, which was proven to be ineffective, as Hierro, Sanchís, or Panucci were always able to hack it away. It might have been developed into better attacking-situation, had Di Livio opted to make a saver ball circulation. The other “missing piece” was the attacking positioning of the other players. Diagonally, there was zero good passing option for Di Livio which was needed afor a saver ball circulation. This arguably played the part of Di Livio decision making. The structure itself didn’t support the need of save ball circulation and it was more horrible, as individual decision-making was observed within the play.

Here is another example of Juventus issue on attack.

a-premature-passing-39-54-minute
A premature pass 39th minute.

After 20 minutes and so, Real players adjusted the positioning a bit and changed their way of attack. Mijatovic started from the left flank more than he had done 20 minutes earlier. So did Clarence Seedorf, the Dutch found roaming far, both centrally and to the left.

reals-alternative-attacking-scheme
Real’s alternative attacking scheme.

A moment of 22nd minute was the nearly perfect example of the left attack. The ball was under Redondo control. Karembeu kept close to Redondo. By doing this, Karembeu could still maintain the closest passing option for Redondo and, at once, covered the 6 in case Redondo moved forward. Two of their wide midfielder, Raúl and Seedorf, got into the Juventus’ middle third and started occupying more centrally. The movement of both full backs oriented to the direction of play set by the ball carrier.

The situation here was interesting. When Redondo carried the ball to the right half space close to the right flank area, which often interpreted as the early sign of right side attack, Panucci (the right full back) did not move forward. He held his position on the deeper area to the ball position. It was Roberto Carlos who moved forward and positioned himself on left touchline of the central line. This in turn explained the attacking plan that was being structured.

In the middle third of Juventus central area and left (Real’s right) half space, there were already three Real players (Raúl, Mijatovic, seedorf). On Real’s left half space, there was one player (Morientes) close to Carlos. Vertically, there were two positioning-blocks with different attacking purpose. These two vertical-blocks forced Juventus to put more players behind and split their concentration. More Real’s players on the far-side block than the ball-side was. Such vertical block was intended to exploit Juventus wide right flank. An overloading on one side to open the space on the opposite side. Let’s see the situation below.

interchanging-22nd-minute
Interchanging, 22nd minute. The process of chance creation. Mijatovic and Raúl shifted to the right and Seedorf moved centrally (the first block). Morientes and Carlos, on the left flank (the second block).

The above diagram shows the variation of the interchanging amongst the frontest four. Mijatovic and Raúl started from right half space. Seedorf, as he took the central post, acted as the decider of the ball progression direction. Morientes was the decoy, acting as the space opener in the early phase of the current wide play.

Karembeu passed the ball to Morientes who started from the left half-space. He immediately squared the ball to Roberto Carlos (marked by #1). Carlos then made a short diagonal pass to Seedorf (2). Morientes moved smartly as he dragged Torricelli to the wide (3) and opened the space for Seedorf as well, let alone Deschamps was too passive in respond to Seedorf movement. After moving forward slightly, Seedorf made a nice one-two (4) with Mijatovic and moved wide to left flank. Morientes got into the central area whilst making a dummy-move. You can see the following situation below.

huge-space-opened
Huge space opened on the right area of Juventus’ defense. Only five seconds from the moment Morientes received the ball from Karembeu.

Seedorf was known to be a mobile one who had a very good stamina so he capable to cover huge area. As a midfielder, Seedorf also had the ability to provide a good pass. This arguably was one reason Heynckes pointed Seedorf as the player to move from flank to flank and the executor of the pass, as the last phase of the chance creation.

It was said, Morientes identified as the 9 and the finisher. Tasked him as the space opener in the early phase of the wide play and ended up with him being the passing target, was one of brilliant way to trick Juventus’ defensive system. He roamed, he started from the wide area of the middle-third, and he moved forward to present himself in the penalty area to finish it off.

The decision of plotting Mijatovic, instead of Raúl, as the wall for Seedorf and generated the one-two combination had also helped Raúl to get into Juventus penalty area more easily, as Montero was dragged away to deal with Mijatovic movement. It left Raúl being marked by Pessotto. The central area was suddenly unstable.

Di Livio was one of the weak defensive point. He was the wide midfielder on the right. His involvement at helping juventus stopping Real left flank attack was less. He struggled at almost every time of Real left-attack. On some defensive situation he positioned too deep, it left too huge space for Deschamps (as the DMC) to be covered. Attacking-wise, Di Livio didn’t make much positive-impact to their wide play, as he looked to be one dimensional.

Both side were struggling at executing the chance. But, overall, Real had more attacking variations than Juventus which looked to be static and more predictable.

Second half

After the break, the obvious change was Alessio Tacchinardi came in to replace Di Livio. This automatically changed the manner of Juventus right side play. Tacchinardi was a “worker” not a hugging-line winger. His presence seemed to be intended to nullify Real’s left flank threat, as Di Livio involvement both attack and defense was less, the classic winger was caught, in many occasions, miss judging the situation. Di Livio lost some tackles, too passive at building collective defensive barrier, and too one dimensional when on attack.

Heynckes also changed the movement of Real attack. In the first half, particularly 20-25 minutes into the match, Seedorf and Mijatovic changed their movement orientation. Mijatovic started his movement from the left and Seedor shifted to the central and left area in more occasions. But not in the second half. Seedorf was focusing more to the right side. Heynckes also changed Mijatovic movement orientation, as majority of his coverage area was on the right advanced area. Mijatovic did not roamed far to the deep area of the left flank. The possible reason for this, maybe Heynckes didn’t want to take the risk of overusing them and, in turn, costed the stamina.

The same scheme remained there. Particularly the movement-scheme on the final third. Morientes, Raúl, and Mijatovic interchanging and dropped off to keep Juventus defenders guessing all the time. In general, here is the initial shape.

line-up-second-half
Second half line up

Two tactical set up : focusing Seedorf more to the right and ordering the forward trio to interchange had finally found the best moment at 66’. The short-quick triangle combination in the middle area, amongst the three, before the ball was directly passed, in one touch, to Seedorf on the right, resulted a throw in. This in turn becoming the beginning of the only Mijatovic’s goal. An overloading in the central area opened the space for Seedorf, on the right.

This situation started from the long goal kick by Angelo Peruzzi which intercepted by the mobile-Hierro as he ventured forward and won the aerial duel against Davids, near the center circle. The second ball was won by Seedorf as he beat Pessotto in another aerial duel and reached Morientes’ feet. Morientes ran with ball to the center and made a quick one touch combination combination in triangulation between him, Mijatovic, and Raúl. In one touch-passing by Raúl, the ball was switched to the right flank and found the free Seedorf. The positioning of Raúl, in the triangle combination, was perfect as he stood deeper, which giving him the better view to the advanced area. His quick one-touch passing was the sign that Raúl had decided where he had to pass the ball before receiving Mijatovic’s pass. Seedorf attempted-cross was intercepted by Pessotto and resulted a throw-in. 12 seconds later from the throw-in, Mijatovic slotted the only goal.

Real middle line block

It was very hard for Juventus to break the barricade of Real middle line. When Seedorf stayed far forward and Juventus tried to play through Real’s right side, Karembeu and Redondo shifted well and covered it. On this right side play, Karembeu was the ball-side 6 who acted as the outer layer of passive press, with Redondo covered the central area and Panucci behind them. This was applied vice-versa to the opposite flank. It worked well and managed to hold Juventus ball progression. Juventus could only play it back or square. If any ball progress made, most of them were harmless ones. As the barricade held Juventus from going forward, it gave enough time for the formation to resort, as the advanced area players tracked back.

As discussed earlier, in the middle line ball battle, Heynckes also had his 9 or even the central defender (mostly Hierro) to get involve. This central defender was a cover to any Juventus ball and players bypassed the middle line blockade. The presence of the 9 was also playing its own positive part. In some defensive involvement, the 9 dropped deeper and occupied the 10 or 8. One of the best defensive involvement by the 9 was when they became a defensive forward which following the ball carrier to the 8 of Real’s. In this situation, the nearest midfielders covered this first wave press and raised the intensity when the ball carrier could still progress and got into their local defending area. Let’s take a look at two scenes as the example.

Scene 1 :

after-deschamps-tackled-seedorf
After Deschamps tackled Seedorf

scene-from-46-05-to-46-17-minute
Scene from 46 : 05 to 46 : 17 minute

Davids made a ball recovery after Deschamps tackled seeedorf. Right after that, Karembeu, Seedorf, and Redondo built a barricade in front of Davids put a half pressure and provided the necessary time for other players to settle into defense.

This positioning gained some defensive advantages. Karembeu positioning was ideal as he blocked the passing lane to Zidane and put his compatriot in his cover shadow. The arrow on Karembeu indicates his pressing orientation to Davids, so any vertical with ball movement from Davids would have to deal with Karembeu physical challenge. Fernando Redondo positioning was a passive pressing which orienting to Tacchinardi and Deschamps positioning. Especially Deschamps, he was also under the watch of Raúl. Seedorf acted.as the cover, particularly, for both flank. In the early of this local overloading transition his back ward pressing movement oriented to Davids and Deschamps, until the barricade settled its ideal shape.

Behind this middle line blocked, there was interchanging between Hierro and Pannuci, as Hierro was tasked to be the defender to deal with any threat created to “the in between middle and back line”. Panucci gradually left Zidane and interchanged with Hierro to man mark Del Piero and Zidane.

Davids made a back pass to Pessotto, which triggering the backward pressing of Mijatovic, here was the involvement of the nearest 9 began. As shown on the right diagram, along with Karembeu and Seedorf, Mijatovic pressed Davids, trying to rob the ball. Davids forward pass to Zidane was intercepted by Hierro, as he came from behind made use the Zidane “back to goal positioning” when Davids pass approached him.

Real didn’t regain possession, as the referee called a foul against Real. Apart of the foul, this sequence of defensive positioning, pressing-related actions, and the playing between the line – in defensive term – showed the well prepared Real side.

Scene 2 :

scene-from-48-30
Scene from 48 : 30 minute. Another defensive involvement, in aggressive manner, of Real’s 9.

In a Juventus’ deep build up, Zidane dropped very deep to pick up the ball from Montero. Mijatovic was on the right to cover Pessotto. Morientes in the central area close to Zidane. When the 10 ran with the ball vertically, Morientes chasing him (being the main presser) for around 4 to 5 seconds. Along with Karembeu (the pressing cover) Morientes stopped Zidane when the French got into the 8 of Real.

The Redondo-Karembeu chain, was very good at covering the movement of Real advanced area ball circulation. Combined with the mobile Real’s three forwards, they seemed to make more ball recoveries than Juventus did (the objective stat is needed to prove this presumption). The twin 6 could keep the distance between the onward and backward line to stay “on their reach”, resulting the better ball access, which enabling the ball recycling more comfortably.

In the first half, left flank was one of the weak area of Real as the natural occurrence of the staggering wide men formation. In attacking phase, the left area was the more aggressive than the right one. Raúl would go forward faster than Seedorf, as the part of his duty as one of the forward three, he had to occupy further forward area than Seedorf. This created big gap between full back and the line in front of him, bigger than the opposite flank one. In the second half, Real improved their way to defend this area.

scene-from-minute-53-12
The scene from 53:12 minute

This was the scene started from 53 : 05 minute. In an attacking transition, Davids switched the play from left to the right (Real’s left) side. The ball fell to Torricelli, Morientes put a low intensity pressing on the right back, as he seemed to put half-press, providing enough time for another players to build the planned-defensive formation. Morientes (and Raúl) positioning was also intended to block if any back pass made from Torricelli to the central defenders. When Torricelli progressed and just entered the middle third, Roberto Carlos suddenly came up to press him. Real twin 6 chain shifted gradually, Redondo came closed and put Deschamps behind his shadow cover at once. When Zidane came into this local battle field, Karembeu followed and shadowed him from behind waiting for Zidane to receive the ball and pressed intensely the 10 when was still in “his back to the (Real’s) goal” condition.

The following situation, Zidane made a one-two short passing combination with Torricelli and moved wide to the right touchline. This combination and movement opened the space for Tacchinardi and Del Piero (who was being man marked by Sanchís) to get into near the circle. Torricelli passed the ball to that area, the ball was picked up by Tacchinardi. But a very good challenge by Redondo, helped Sanchís to regain possession.

The shifting formation, half press, defensive movement, and individual brilliance had achieved its goal.

Individually brilliant

Not only tactically batter (Real’s playing scheme was more various and fluidly-executed), but Real players also showed many superior individually as they seemed to be slightly better in a short quick individual battle situation. It was something like “Real players had the better fast muscle fibres” than Juventus’ players. Whatever…

The first example was the 10:57, when Raúl Gonzalez alone beat Davids, Deschamps, and Torricelli to the ball. They surrounded and pressed Raúl, but he managed to keep the ball and tricked the 3v1 overloading. The next examples were the two brilliant moments of Mijatovic. The first one, when he was able to maintain his pacey dribbling and body balance in a one on one situation direct clash with Edgar Davids, before he managed to outpace Davids and released a cross. The second one was the 54”, when he made a minor mistake when trying to take Pessotto on as he put the ball slightly too far ahead and seemed to be outpaced by Pessotto. But, with his quickness, agility and balance, he beat Pessotto, past him, and forced the left back grabbing his shorts.

it-deserves-yellow-sir
“It deserves yellow, sir.”

There were actually many other examples. You can find how hard it was for Juventus to deal with Redondo ball playing skill, strength, and composure. At back, Hierro maintained his resilient and strong performance throughout the match, as he covered the ground very well, shifted to both flanks to created pressing formation, and made a lot of strategically useful actions.

The last adjustment

final-formation
The final formation

Lippi pushed for the equalizer. He replaced Pessotto with Daniel Fonseca and got Antonio Conte in for Didier Deschamps, as he needed more attacking-minded ones. A more aggressive approach of attacking positioning was obvious. When the ball approached Real’s final third from the the right flank, for example, there would be three to four Juventus players in the penalty box. Fonseca was the right winger, the one to provide the crosses. Two players stayed outside of the box 18-20 meters from the goalie.

Heynckes made three changes. Jaime in for Morientes, Davor Suker for Mijatovic, and Raúl out replaced by Jose Amavisca. As the time was going by, Real pulled more men behind the ball and parked the bus in a 5-5-0 like defensive shape. Everything became more difficult for Juventus and they were not able to create promising chances.

Conclusion

Tactically, Real were better at build up progression phase and chances-creation effort, as they had more variants of attacking movements. Their positional structure was also more dynamic and had more interchanging compared to Juventus’. Real were able to create many attacking combination through their frontest three and Seedorf. Juventus were too one dimensional. The Old Lady attacking purpose was obvious, they needed to play it directly and as quick as possible to the striker duo, either through the wide area or central area, particularly Zidane. The issue was not the purpose, but the execution itself. There was less creativity when executing the scheme. In many occasions Juventus seemed to be too premature at making decision (passing too early, running with ball too fast, etc). The Real’s middle line block and ball-oriented shifting only made it harder for Juventus, as it reduced the passing progression. If any progress made, most of them was harmless.

Fernando Hierro and Clerence Seedorf deserved for the man of the match nomination. Hierro was resilient through the match. He covered the weakness of Manuel Sanchís and helped the team to create play from the deep area. He made a lot of important interceptions, tackles, ball recoveries, and aerial duels. The Captain was often found defending the intermediate-defense calmly. Clarence Seedorf was one of the main element of Real attacking progression as he often found to be the catalyst between the front line and the line behind. He moved from flank to flank to provide passes, create space, or recycle the ball. To pick one for MotM, Hierro.

Real made up for domestic disappointment by winning the CL with a 1-0 win over Juventus. And, it was absolutely not an upset. Real were absolutely tactically and individually brilliant. They deserved the big ears. Sadly it was an unfortunately end for the tactician. The title was no enough to save his job. Heynckes was sacked eight days after the CL glorious. The first CL trophy after a 32 years of long waiting.

Thanks in advance for reading, for more updates you can follow the blog or follow me on Twitter @ryantank_

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