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Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: both sides threaten but Barca superior at finishing

March 25, 2015
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: both sides threaten but Barca superior at finishing

Barcelona moved four points ¬†clear at the top of La Liga thanks to Luis Suarez’s winner.

Barcelona selection

Sergio Busquets was only fit enough for the bench, so Javier Mascherano played in the holding role, with Jeremy Mathieu the left-sided centre-back.

Otherwise, the team was as expected. Xavi Hernandez had surprisingly started over Ivan Rakitic in the reverse fixture, but Luis Enrique didn’t replicate that error, so we had the unusual sight of Barcelona without either Busquets or Xavi, the two players who usually control this game.

Real Madrid

Real were also as expected. James Rodriguez is still out, although Luka Modric has regained full fitness and continued in midfield alongside Isco.

Toni Kroos was recalled by Carlo Ancelotti, having been rested for the first time this season the previous weekend.

Match summary

The sides were evenly matched here. Both teams had good spells but this game wasn’t decided one particular zone, or because either side did much better than their opponents – aside from finishing. Read more »

Dortmund 0-3 Juventus: deep defending and quick countering

March 19, 2015
Dortmund 0-3 Juventus: deep defending and quick countering

Juventus produced a classic away performance to win this tie comfortably.

Dortmund selection

Jurgen Klopp named his default 4-2-3-1 formation. Kevin Kampl made his Champions League debut on the right, with Henrikh Mikhitaryan on the left flank – neither are natural wingers, and both prefer to drift inside.

Soktatis Papastathopoulos started at right-back, with Lukas Piszczek still out following the injury he collected in the first leg.

Juventus selection

Max Allegri initially fielded a diamond midfield system, although the early injury to Paul Pogba – when Juve were already 1-0 up – meant a switch to 5-3-2, with Andrea Barzagli replacing him, and Roberto Pereyra dropping back from the top of the diamond into Pogba’s left-of-centre role.

Andrea Pirlo was already out injured, although this probably wasn’t a significant blow against Dortmund’s intense pressing – he can struggle in that environment, and Claudio Marchisio has shown an ability to play the Pirlo role effectively.

Match summary

Juventus took the lead early and then produced a stereotypically solid Italian defensive performance, barely pressing in the final third and instead concentrating on clearing from the edge of their own penalty box. Their counter-attacking, meanwhile, was incredibly basic but also extremely effective. Read more »

Chelsea 2-2 PSG (aet): Blanc continues with starting approach despite early red card

March 12, 2015
Chelsea 2-2 PSG (aet): Blanc continues with starting approach despite early red card

Paris Saint-Germain adapted excellently after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s dismissal, and progressed on away goals courtesy of two headed goals from their centre-backs.

Chelsea selection

The most surprising name on the Chelsea teamsheet was Oscar, who was preferred over his fellow Brazilian Willian. This hinted at Jose Mourinho’s preferred midfield format.

In defence, Gary Cahill was selected instead of Kurt Zouma, who has recently impressed both in defence and midfield. Nemanja Matic was fit to return in the holding role.

PSG selection

Laurent Blanc was able to call upon Thiago Motta, which meant David Luiz could return to centre-back. In turn, this meant Blanc moved Marquinhos out to right-back, as he’s considered a better defender than Gregory van der Wiel, and because Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s main threat.

Further forward, playmaker Javier Pastore was favoured over wide forward Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Match summary

PSG played for more than 90 minutes with a man disadvantage, and yet still performed magnificently, competing in terms of possession and creating a few chances. Mourinho, unusually magnanimous in defeat, admitted afterwards that his team hadn’t deserved to progress. Read more »

Roma 1-1 Juventus: Juve revert to a back three and sit deep

March 4, 2015
Roma 1-1 Juventus: Juve revert to a back three and sit deep

Juventus played for, and achieved, the draw which means they remain firm favourites for a fourth consecutive Serie A title.

Roma selection

Rudi Garcia’s side was largely as expected, with Francesco Totti playing the false nine role, and Adem Ljajic on the right flank.

The only change from the Europa League victory over Feyenoord was in goal, where Morgan De Sanctis returned.

Juventus selection

Max Allegri switched to a three-man defence – although, in reality, it was more of a back five. Martin Caceres came into the side.

Andrea Pirlo was injured and Paul Pogba on the bench, so Claudio Marchisio and Roberto Pereyra played instead.

Match summary

Roma had the majority of possession, but Juventus defended extremely well in open play, and counter-attacked dangerously too. Allegri’s side had the upper hand throughout. Read more »