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Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

La Liga 2022/23: Three tactical miscues Carlo Ancelotti has to address after loss against Mallorca – tactical analysis

Barcelona’s eight-point lead over Real Madrid in La Liga is owing in large part to Real Mallorca’s iron resolve and cunning plan. Mallorca were able to earn three massive points at the Son Moix against the reigning champions.

This season, Mallorca under Javier Aguirre has shocked the league’s top clubs. The Mexican has reignited the team’s will to compete with the best despite a rocky season in which they’ve lost to clubs from the bottom half of the table.

Under their new coach, Mallorca’s most notable results were victories against Atletico Madrid, Villareal, and Valencia. Despite Mallorca’s best efforts, the league leaders still managed to defeat them by a single goal.

The Spanish National Nacho Fernández scored an own goal as Madrid lost 1-0 on the road at Mallorca. Los Blancos haven’t lost a game in which they didn’t score since May 2022.

Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and star defender Éder Militão both had to sit out with injuries that ultimately proved to be too serious for them to play through.

In this tactical analysis, we’ll take a look at the tactical screw-ups that gave Carlo Ancelotti so much difficulty during the La Liga run. This analysis will also look into the tactics used by the two respective managers.


Ancelotti used a classic 4-3-3 formation despite being without starting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was injured just before kickoff. The second-choice Andriy Lunin started in the goal. Former Chelsea defender Antonio Rüdiger combined with Nacho Fernandez at centre defence, while Dani Carvajal and French midfielder Eduardo Camavinga manned the sides.

In the centre of the field, Aurélien Tchouaméni, the team’s lone pivot, teamed up with Dani Ceballos and Federico Valverde. Due to the absence of their regular striker, Rodrygo started in the middle, with Marco Asensio and Vinícius Júnior on the wings.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

Aguirre reverted to his usual 5-4-1 formation, which has been employed in over 48% of the games this year. Aguirre’s considerations have been grounded on this structure. Predrag Rajković began off in goal.

In the starting lineup, Pablo Maffeo and Jaume Costa were on the right and left, while Antonio Raíllo, Giovanni González, and Matija Nastasić were the three central defenders. Iñigo Ruiz and Iddrisu Baba of Ghana began in the middle of the field, with Kang-In Lee and Dani Rodríguez on the wings. Vedat Muriqi was the lone striker upfront.

Inability to nullify game runners

With the help of its European Champion manager, Real Madrid has become one of the youngest teams in the world, with an abundance of potential and ability among its players. Their most recent performance against Xavi Hernández and Barcelona highlighted their inability to stop the game’s runners.

After their most incredible victory under the former Barcelona midfielder, Pedri Gonzalez and Pablo Gavi dominated the whole match. Madrid’s capacity to exert dominance through a defensive strategy fell well short of expectations.

Since their game plan included using a modest aggressive approach to tiki-take the whole match, they were able to avoid any unwelcome pressing. Ancelotti’s worst fears may have been realised.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

The home team’s resistance to the visitors’ aggressive play allowed the visitors to get more frustrated as the game progressed.  The impatience that Ancelotti’s men showed was not the right way to defend Baba who was the command right after the start.

Ceballos sought to demonstrate his toughness, but Baba’s talent was on display when he broke apart the chain in the middle of the field with a dip over the head (as seen in the above shot).

When Tchouaméni had no other option but to apply pressure on Baba with very little support, he was physically demoralised by the Ghanaian. To set up the pass he had intended, he backed off the Frenchman, like in the image below.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

Against the Champions, Baba brought his A-game since he was tasked with playing the most difficult position on the team—that of a link between the offence and defence. He has incredible ball-holding skills, allowing him to withstand pressure as he plots his next move.

Muriqi, the team’s central forward, embodied this trait on several occasions. Mallorca’s number 9 who wore the number seven jersey, deserves special recognition for his efforts. Everyone knew they could count on him to be physically capable of fielding long balls and hanging on until his teammates could get there to help.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

His decision to cut inside to collect the ball and then hang on to it for a few seconds before making a move provided Mallorca with a great escape route from Madrid’s press.

Of course, Mallorca needed to rely on counterattacks while playing Madrid. The only reason their counters started working was because of Muriqi’s excellent performance as the false 9. His movements were a huge boost to the team’s confidence.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

There was no end to Mallorca’s deviousness even after 70 minutes into the game. Immediately after the defensive clearance of the corner, five players go into a mad dash against one another. Mallorca came quite close to putting another one on the board.

The left side of Mallorca’s defence and the attack was lightning fast, and they never allowed Madrid inside the box. Amazingly, Kang-In Lee and Jaume Costa were able to put pressure on and narrow the playing field to give their opponents very little time to plan.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

Lee, who is seen racing across the floor to overlap the dribbler, effectively spreads out the whole opposition with one dazzling run. Against a team that didn’t have a shot on goal until the 84th minute, Madrid controlled over 75% of the ball and attempted 20 shots on goal to Mallorca’s 4.

In terms of clearances and fouls, Mallorca had twice as much as Madrid. Mallorca had almost 23 clearances, while the visitors had just 12. Despite committing 29 fouls to the visitors’ 14, Mallorca and Madrid were tied on yellow cards with 5 apiece.

Crossing tactics against an overloaded defence

Madrid wanted to break into the other team’s penalty area, but the home players ridiculed them and repelled them. Therefore, they attempted crossing the box several times, even when there was just Vinicius inside.

At no other time did Ancelotti’s squad pose a danger to Mallorca’s net other than on set pieces. They were not helped by any crosses that came in from the outside. All the crosses appeared to have no significance.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

Even at the ten-minute point, like in the above image, we can see the crossing plan evidence map. Vinicius, the Brazilian winger, looks to be the only player entering Mallorca’s penalty area, but his teammate Rodrygo provides a countermovement between the fullback and the centre-back.

Against the three central defenders for Mallorca, Camavinga shouldn’t risk a cross to Vinicius. Despite having Rodygo open for a pass in the middle of the field, the left-back-playing midfielder opted to play the ball into the box, with no scope ahead.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

All of the failed crosses were aimed towards Mariano, who had replaced Asensio. Substituted for Valverde, Luka Modrić can be seen above making an uninspired cross.

Rodrgyo had his opportunity on one of their crossing plays when he was on the left side of the field. They all passed up opportunities to threaten Mallorca because they sent in their passes at inappropriate times. From below, we can see that only Rüdiger, who is firmly marked at the far post, and Ceballos, who is just inside the box, are unmarked.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

Yet again with no teammate in a pole position to score, Rodrygo gave his shot which indeed resulted in Mallorca’s way. Madrid constantly tried for the crossing, yet their faith in the plans was so strong, they never succeeded. One of Mallorca’s few crosses was much more dangerous than any of Madrid’s regular offerings.

To each his own, they’ll throw in extra crosses if that’s what the coach wants. Everyone on the team was ordered to participate, although only a few posed a danger. The visitor’s plans appeared to be falling through at every turn.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

The manager may have been able to see its significance, which would have prevented them from losing. For a team to succeed in a top-tier league, relying only on excellent deliveries and strong headers was unrealistic.

Ancelotti, who has won more UEFA Champions League titles than any other manager, has done a fantastic job of revitalising Los Blancos. However, with Barcelona now on top of the league, he’ll need to find a new approach to break through.

They were terrible at attacking while keeping possession of the ball, a skill that Barcelona has since perfected. This striking disparity is encouraging news for the Catalan club.

The difficulty to penetrate

As for their encounter against Mallorca, Real Madrid had gone without a goal in two of their past three games after scoring in every game thus far this season. One contributing factor was the poor quality of the opportunities provided, with just one shot recording a better xG than their season average.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

The following image illustrates the Mallorcans’ stance, as seen by the position of the right central defender. Aguirre’s men displayed exceptional focus, cooperation, and initiative.

Vinicius faced up against Mallorca in a physical match, and despite Mallorca pushing all of his buttons, he kept fighting and recorded six dribbles.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

The Brazilian took 10 fouls during the course of the game, which is three more than his previous career best. Despite being cautioned in the 86th minute, Maffeo continued to go to war with the Brazilian.

Having become Lionel Messi’s “shadow,” Maffeo had a masterful man-marking effort, demonstrating why Messi considers him his greatest opponent of all time.

Substitute Toni Kroos, who had replaced Tchouaméni, performed the way Ancelotti had envisioned. It was the coach’s guidance that led to the problem, not the player’s lack of effort. Out of Vinícius, David Alaba, Camavinga, and Modrić, he picked the in-motion Rodrygo.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

Aguirre’s men expertly used Ancelotti’s need to score a goal. These kinds of attacks were pointless and unproductive. Rodrygo’s shot from eight yards out in 15 minutes produced 0.13 xG, the only opportunity in open play with a better value than the season average of 0.127 xG.

To make matters worse, Asensio missed a penalty this season, bringing Real Madrid’s total number of penalty misses to three and their La Liga conversion rate down to 62% (five for, three against), still far behind their all-time record of 85%.

The entire home team had to be alert to fend off Madrid’s attacks. Using this formation, they were able to stay close together and cause considerable distress for the Los Blancos.

Mallorca vs Real Madrid 2022/23 - tactical analysis

As can be seen above, Madrid’s midfielders had very little time to plan their next play before being robbed. Somehow, Rodrygo completes the pass to Modrić, but one from the group of midfielders and defenders rushes in to steal the ball.

The total number of Madrid’s shots, including those that were off target, increased to 17, tying the number of shots taken by Mallorca. Because of the team’s compactness, Mallorca was able to quickly regain possession of the ball after handing it to an opponent.

Mallorca might make any necessary adjustments to ensure the event goes well. They have unmatched coordination and balance. All of the players in Mallorca were enthusiastic and focused on victory.


Attempting to clear the ball, Nacho instead headed it high over his goalie and into the net, stunning his teammates. The cross that Mallorca sent into the box was intended for the team’s centre forward, but it was accidentally deflected into his own net.

Asensio’s penalty on the hour mark for Ancelotti’s team was saved by Rajković, denying the possibility of a breakthrough. An unimaginable number of crosses weren’t met inside the box which meant it wasn’t for them.

As a result of Real’s loss, Barcelona increased their advantage at the top of the table to eight points with a 3-0 victory against Sevilla on Sunday.

Mallorca, under Aguirre, currently sit in tenth place and now peek at the Europa Conference League qualification spot by just five points in between.