Julen Lopetegui’s job is surely gone after Real Madrid‘s El Clasico hammering on Sunday, and former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is reportedly locked in talks to take over. The Italian has been available ever since he was ousted at Stamford Bridge to accommodate Maurizio Sarri.
The 49-year-old has always advocated a three-man defence. At Juventus and Italy, he played five players in the midfield with the wing-backs dropping to form a five-man backline when the team was defending. While at Chelsea, Conte brought revolution to the Premier League with a 3-4-3 formation which was emulated by quite a number of teams in the league, the most notable being Arsenal.
It’s safe to assume that the Italian will employ the same formation should he take the reins at Real Madrid. With the defence in shambles, this might prove to be a short-term and long-term solution to establish some stability at the back.
A solid backline
During Chelsea’s title winning season in 2016/17, Conte had Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill on either sides of David Luiz who was utilised as a sweeper centre-back. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses were deployed as wing-backs to suffocate their opposite numbers and create overloads.
Real Madrid’s major concern is their defence and this system might find some answers. Although Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane have been underperforming, the lack of depth in defence renders them undisputed starters. The versatile Nacho Fernandez has disappointed at both centre-back and right-back positions. This wouldn’t be the right time to throw a youngster such as Jesus Vallejo into the firing line either.
The Italian will start Ramos, Nacho and Varane in his three-man defence, with Ramos in the middle looking to provide easy transition into attacks as a ball-playing centre-back. An improbable, yet plausible idea of playing Casemiro as a sweeper with Ramos and Varane on either side is also worth considering.
In a season short of highlights thus far, Marcelo has been one of the better attacking players for Los Blancos, with two goals in the league and one in the Champions League. The Brazilian has been dangerous going forward but has compromised his defending duties in the process – and he’s never really been a fan of the latter. Playing as a wing-back in front of a three-man defence might allow the Brazilian to experience the best of both worlds.
Lucas Vazquez has exhibited that he is capable of playing as a right-back, a right winger and even a wing-back, and has proved to be a handy utility player for Los Blancos. With Dani Carvajal sidelined due to injury, Vazquez might get the nod to start as a wing-back on the right.
Alvaro Odriozola, the summer signing from Real Sociedad who has featured little under Lopetegui, and Carvajal are both dangerous on the wing and Conte is clearly not out of options in this area of the pitch.
Whether Conte will play a compact frontline in a 3-5-2 formation with Isco playing as a number ten behind Bale and Benzema or employ a 3-4-3 formation with Isco on the left-wing is hard to predict.
Should Conte opt for the latter, the wingers will look to widen the attacks with the wing-backs underlapping. However, the 3-5-2 formation appears to be the better option on paper. Isco will be playing between the lines, just in front of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. The Spaniard will look to find Bale and Benzema in half spaces.
Ultimately, it all boils down to how the players perform. Benzema has been dismal in front of goal and the midfield has been dormant of late. A change in manager, tactics or formation can’t fix this in isolation. The players need to step up.
Culled from Sports360