On 14 January 2021, Marcelino achieved his first great success as an Athletic Club coach. Presented as the new coach of the Basque team just a few days before, the Asturian coach was playing the semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid. The match, played in Malaga, ended with a 1-2 win for Athletic (Raúl García scored both goals, while Benzema scored Madrid’s). FC Barcelona would be the rival in the final.
“We knew our effectiveness in defence was going to give us many chances to reach the final,” recalls Marcelino, who in a master class with ‘The Coaches Voice’ used the traditional blackboard with which other managers around the world have explained some of the best games of their career. This double duel of the Super Cup can be seen on video through the YouTube channel in Spanish. As the coach acknowledges, the suspension -for weather conditions- of the league match, played against Atlético on 9 January, allowed a better Super Cup match preparation. Against Madrid, with the team using their classic 1-4-4-2, Marcelino sought to make a difference through some tactical instructions.
Offensive and defensive keys
In the offensive aspect, in the actions in which Athletic decided to play the ball from behind, the coach’s indication was to notice which of the two Madrid wingers was going to pressure. That way, they would know which side was left unmarked and could receive the ball.
“If we were able to overcome the high pressure of Real Madrid, we tried to accelerate the attacks as much as possible,” reveals Marcelino. “When Madrid lowered their lines, we tried to open the pitch with the wingers,” he says. “Each progression sought to generate numerical superiorities from within.”
After the recovery, the plan was to make quick transitions to damage Real Madrid’s defensive balance. The priority was to cover the central corridor on the defensive level, either with higher pressure or medium or low block. “We were planning to press where the ball was,” says the coach, who insisted that men like Kroos and Benzema come into play as little as possible. It was the first step since Barcelona was still waiting for them in the final to get the title, which eliminated Real Sociedad in the other semifinal.