Barcelona's Pressing Defense
Barcelona are well known for their incredible passing game, their tiki taka style of play that's made up of short quick passes to keep possession. Barcelona have said that the best defense is to keep the ball, and by not giving your opponent long periods of possession of the ball they are limited in their ability to attack and score. Teams are forced to pack it in, become ultra defensive and try to counter attack when they can.
Barcelona rack up long periods of possession, and usually average over 70% of the ball no matter who they are playing against, whether they are playing against Real Madrid or Manchester Untied.
But one of the things they do so well that doesn't get as much attention is press the soccer ball. Barcelona's pressing tactics cause teams to lose the ball as soon as they get it back from Barcelona. It must get very frustrating for opposing teams, who don't see the ball all that much when they play Barcelona and then lose the ball almost as soon as they get it.
Anytime Barcelona loses possession of the ball they immediately go into this pressing mode and fight to win the ball back with two or three players pressing the opposing team. Barcelona try to regain possession of the ball right away with a relentless pressing defense.
And this pressing defense usually takes place in the attacking third, so teams are forced to clear the ball out of bounds or send a long, rushed pass up the field that usually gets intercepted. The pressing style of play and the tiki taka style of play go hand in hand. Since their passing game and keeping possession of the ball requires good support and balance, when a Barcelona player has the ball they usually have a player to each side, in front, and behind them that they can pass to. This requires their players to constantly stay in motion and support the ball.
This amoeba like movement of their team also lends itself to their pressing defensive style of play, as when someone loses the ball they always have two or three players there to try to win it back. The Barcelona player immediately presses the opposing team's player who has the ball, forcing them to put their head down so they can't look up to find a teammate to pass to.
Their pressing starts with being a compact unit, moving as one unit from the left to the right and to the front and then back. They push up and smother the opposing team, with their forwards getting right on top of the opposing teams' defenders to limit their options.
What's more, even Barcelona's most important player, and the best soccer player in the world, Lionel Messi, plays defense and presses the ball when the team loses possession. This is what sets Barcelona part from other teams, every player on the team works for the team, whether that's to keep possession of the ball on offense, or fighting to win the ball back on defense. What many people don't realize about Barcelona is they work incredibly hard and incredibly fit.
You also rarely see Barcelona players complain or yell at one another if they lose the ball. Instead, they chase the ball down and win the soccer ball right back - often in just six seconds as seen in the video below.