Barcelona are not just injury-driven but also affected by crippled defense that easily spoofs itself when given a chance. Old defenders have lost their charm and new ones have discovered none. In such a scenario, el clasico is but a nightmare to even think about. In this article, however, we will talk about other such potential nightmare, Zidane’s workhorse – Federico Valverde.
Fede, as they call him, has not only earned the trust of his coach but has also been granted the most freedom on the pitch. The 21 year old has been superlative when it comes to executing the in-play switch of tactics. Not only have we seen him assume Modric’s and further up Kroos’s role (reducing his muscular burden) but also perfecting a deeper role alongside Casemiro (forming two pivots) while being a part of the front three as required.
The following pictures will illustrate how crucial he has been to Zidane’s work-theory. On papers, his position is alongside Casemiro.
This is usually the case when Real Madrid start from the scratch. Stationed on the right, this is his preferred position to scan the field and be present wherever necessary. His awareness on the pitch is praiseworthy, one of the noted examples being his deliberate foul (that earned him a red card) against Atletico to win his side Spanish Supercup.
Valverde is everywhere on the pitch. His heatmap on almost all the games he played in confirms this. He drops in deep to help his side build from the back. The image below shows him on the deep left half of the pitch freeing the ball away from the cluttered Atleti defense.
Right after that, he gears up, declares himself a winger and initiates a tactical masterclass that Atletico’s defense puts a full stop to.
Valverde (left) starts at the big blue spot and passes it to Kroos. Ball movements are labelled in the order of how they were passed. As Benzema collects the ball (after ball position number 4) and tries to pass to sprinting Valverde, Atletico’s defense intervenes. Not only does he start the play, he shadows himself to a finishing position.
Atletico recovers the ball, passes within the penalty area and tries to advance forward, while Fede takes a long stride down and initiates the press from the back.
In that particular event, Valverde recovers the ball successfully and starts the build up for Real Madrid attack right away. This doesn’t go as planned and Atletico recovers the ball shortly after that but the sheer perseverance of Valverde pushes him to recover the ball swiftly, again.
In another instance, he forms the front-line in Madrid’s defensive press.
He ensures success and quickly assumes right wing position and continues the attack with brilliant run in the space.
Whether it is left or right wing, he makes his presence felt on whatever position he assumes.
Swift on the ball recovery, fast on the delivery and amazing on execution, Valverde is definitely the man to watch out for. Knowing Zidane, he will probably use Fede to ghost mark Messi. Whatever the case maybe, there is no doubt El Clasico will not disappoint us.
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