Pre-Match Analysis: Wolves vs. Real Madrid

Welcome to my match analysis of the 2025 Champions League final, between my side, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid.

This isn’t just any old Champions League final though. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to win a game more than this on any Football Manager, for a number of reasons. Firstly, in my bid to become the greatest manager to ever live, there are only two men standing in my way – I’m sure you can guess who they are. If we were to lose, my goal to reach the summit of the Hall of Fame becomes much, much harder. Mourinho’s Madrid have only won the Champions League once, in 2020, and since then have only made it past the First Knockout Round once. Whilst we’ve lost the final a frankly ridiculous three consecutive years, the first of those losses to tonight’s opponents.

Not only does their manager frustrate me, but the players do as well. For years Neymar has been stealing the show at the Balon D’Or awards and my players are frankly a bit pissed off about it. They’ve also got three ex-Wolves players in their ranks (Florian Schwartz, Hector Javier & Sebastia Lopez), two of which left in acrimonious circumstances, asking for more first-team football. Then there’s three further players (Michael Peters, Arthur Huet & Henny Gerritsen) who rejected me for Real Madrid. Upon seeing their new contracts, I saw they were earning a combined £765k a week…

Then there’s our achievements. Despite eight successive Premier League titles, we’ve won the Champions League just twice. We’ve never done an FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League treble. We’ve already won the FA Cup and Premier League this year.

You get the point. I want to win. So how do I do that? Well as I’m sure you’re bored of hearing if you regularly read Football Manager blogs, reactive tactics are in. You can’t just plug and play with a wonder tactic, you need to alter your style, your strategy, your strengths and weaknesses, based on how your opponent approaches the game. I’d like to give you an example of just how in-depth you can go and how this can make a difference in-game. This article will only be a pre-match type dealio, but I’ll hope to get a follow-up soon of the match itself.

The first place I always look when I scout a team is the tactics pages, as seen above. Once you know the shape a team is likely to play, it’s much easier to look at the rest of the scout report in context. With Real Madrid, as expected for a Mourinho side, they play a 4-2-3-1. A quick run over recent games backs up my hypothesis that Mourinho’s side will play counter-attacking football – they’re not particularly bothered if they don’t dominate possession, with recent opponents Granada and Real Sociedad both edging the possession battle. As my side also play a similar style, it’s likely to be a very intense match, particularly as my side presses fairly high – fit players with high stamina are a must.

The next thing I always like to do is look at the opposition’s players themselves. And in this case I come across a wonderful surprise – captain and talisman Neymar is injured, as is their star right-back Rui Dominguez. I’ve got a number of injuries myself but its certainly a bonus to see two players out. However, they’ve got depth in the two injured areas so it certainly won’t be a problem for them.

I also notice that they have an abundance of talented strikers – one of which, Manuel Martin – can occasionally slot into CAM. If he were to play in the hole, he’d be a totally different kind of threat to Sebastia Lopez, who is more of a playmaker. The comparison between the two is shown above. I hope they play Martin because it’ll mean he’ll push further forward and give me the edge in the possession battle in the centre of midfield. The second attribute polygon comparison shows two other potential options at CAM for Real Madrid, however they’re more likely and we’ll adapt to them if necessary.

Another thing I quickly notice from the player screen is that Arthur Huet, who plays at RAM, is a touchline-hugging winger. This is as opposed to Joaquin Martinez who is likely to play at LAM, who has 10 crossing. He’s likely to play as an Advanced Playmaker from wide, or as an Inside Forward, cutting in onto his favoured right foot. However, despite this, the likely left-back, Marcos Castro is unlikely to push forward and provide attacking assistance – he has 10 crossing, 9 dribbling and only 23 assists in his 303 game career. This means I can afford to keep a man pushed up on the right hand side.

The next page to look at is the ‘Goals’ tab. Within this page you get a huge amount of wonderful information but the first bit I’ll talk about is the Goal Times. The most glaring thing for me is that Madrid both score and concede the most amount of goals of any match period, in the first fifteen minutes. They also regularly score late goals (6 scored to 1 conceded) so this is something I need to watch out for by ensuring I retain possession in the late stages of the game, particularly if I’m ahead. However, my side’s high determination levels mean we’re often on top late in the game. Over the past 50 matches, my team have scored 51 and conceded 7 goals in the 61-90 minute period.

The ‘Goals’ page also has within it the ‘Goal Types’ and ‘Goal Assists’ tabs. These are incredibly useful in telling you how a team plays, and can often be a good summary if you don’t want to go into too much detail. It’s as simplistic as realising a team scores lots of headers, so playing your tallest central defender in order to nullify the threat. The fact that Real Madrid concede a large amount of goals down the left-hand side is particularly interesting, because I don’t usually play with a player at RAM. In my crooked 4-2-3-1 system I have a RCAM instead, so maybe playing someone out wide may be more beneficial even if they’re only there to swing crosses in. Something to consider.

Out of the rest of the tabs, I don’t find any particularly useful. The ‘Comparison’ page can often be good to have a quick browse over but I personally prefer to look over individual players rather than collective team strengths and weaknesses.

The final stage of the evaluation is to look at the opposition squad’s mentality. Often there are a number of players in the opposition squad that are capable of being manipulated through the media. I use the above custom view in order to gauge which players to target. However, in this example, the only player who seems like a candidate to me is Gaston Civit. I tell the press he’s likely to be Madrid’s weakest link, and get the following in return:

I’d learnt earlier form the report that Civit is Madrid’s most error-prone player, which isn’t a good trait for a central defender. I’ll look to close him down from the front. Hopefully he’ll play as the LCB which will would result in a really vunerable area for Madrid when combined with left-back Marcos Castro.

That’s all for now. I’m off to play the game. Wish me luck.

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3 comments

  1. chrissamson13

    Do you go into this level of detail to analyse every game you play? I find it fascinating but at the same time realise that I never do this, I’m exactly the opposite, I’m much more of a plug and play manager and don’t really take much notice of how the other team lines up.

    • Eds

      I’d say I do. It honestly doesn’t take that long – the time consuming part was writing all my thoughts down. As long as you remember some key points, it usually makes a difference. If you’re not studying the opponent, then you’re really missing out, in my opinion.

      In fact, I probably put slightly more thought into this one as it was a big game. I even went over a few of Madrid’s past matches, and studied almost every player. I don’t really do that regularly.

  2. ianc5571

    This reminds me I need to do more when looking at an opponents team when I am due to play them. I dont get anywhere near the detail you do. Cheers for the heads up.

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