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Atletico Madrid - Breaking through the pressure within the defensive third


By Michail Tsokaktsidis

During the first leg between Atletico and Real Madrid the home side Atletico struggled to build up within their defensive third as Real Madrid pressed high. The following drills are designed in order to train players in building up under pressure in their defensive half. 





To develop possession play under intense pressure and play forward with quick movements and support play.


Description 7 v 7 (+2 Neutral Players)


In an area 50 yards x 40 yards, we divide into 2 grids. We have 2 teams with 7 players each and 2 neutral players who play with the team in possession. The drill starts in the left grid, 5 players have possession from one team with 2 neutral players against all 7 players of the opposition. The 5 players are in positions along the 4 sides of the grid; 2 at the back (centre backs), 1 left back and 1 right back (or wide forwards) and 1 on the middle line (AM or striker). The 2 neutral players move freely inside the grid to provide support (like central midfielders). The red team has a numerical advantage inside this grid. In the other half we have the 2 white players standing outside at the end. The objective for the team in possession is to complete 5-6 passes and switch the play to the other side/grid. When this happens, the 2 wide players and the 2 neutral players move to support their teammates. All the opposition players also move across. The 2 at the back (centre backs) stay where they are, as does the player in the middle. The objective starts again with the play starting in the right grid. If the defending team wins the ball, the roles switch.




1. When switching play from one grid to the other, the team must first keep possession for a minimum of 10 sec.


2. When there is a switch of play, the middle player changes with one of the bottom players who runs up quickly


Progression 2


2. Dynamic Transitional Possession Game in the 4-2-3-1


Description 9 v 9 (+3 Neutral Players)

In an area 80 yards x 40 yards, we divide into 2 zones (40 yards x 40 yards each). The drill starts in the left grid with a 6v6 (+2 neutral players playing with the team in possession). The 6 white players can be in the 4-2 formation (part of the 4-4-2). The outside neutral player in the left grid has the role of goalkeeper. The inside neutral player is an extra man. On the other side the 3 players and 1 neutral can be the LM, RM and 2nd attacker from the 4-4-2. The objective is to keep possession of the ball under pressure in one grid and complete 6-8 passes. After this, the aim is to switch the play to the 3 players or neutral player in the other half. If this happens, 3 white players and the inside neutral player move across. 3 red players also move across, so we again have 6v6 (+2 neutral players playing with the team in possession). If the red team wins the ball they have the same objective. Either play with unlimited touches for normal players and limit the neutral’s touches or limit all players touches.

Coaching Points

1. The players have to react quickly to the transition from attack to defence.

2. The pressure from the defenders should be well coordinated to make it as hard as possible for the other team

to switch the play.

3. Key aspects: Speed and quality of pass, good decision making, correct angles and distances for support play

and creative combination play and movement.

Progression 3

Breaking Through Pressure High Up the Pitch in a 3 Zone Game


Description 11 v 11

We use a full pitch now. Divide into 3 zones (low , middle and high).The drill always starts in the low zone. The white team has 8 outfield players in the low zone (4-4) and the red team press high with 7 players ( LF, RF, CF, LAM, RAM, CM, LFB). In the middle zone there are 2 white attackers v 3 red defenders. The objective for  the white team is keep the ball under pressure and play forward to the their teammates in the middle zone and then providing quickly support to them for the back pass with 1-2 players coming from the low zone. This creates a 4v3 situation or 5v3 as one extra teammate is allowed to move up to the middle zone. This 4v3 or 5v3 should be exploited to create a chance and score.

Different rules:

1. Unlimited touches in the high and middle zones and limited touches in the low zone.

2. Unlimited touches in the high zone and limited touches in the middle and low zones.

3. Limited touches in all of the zones.

4. Red players can return back as active defender.




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