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Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City: Liverpool start superbly, City respond after the break

April 14, 2014
Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City: Liverpool start superbly, City respond after the break

Philippe Coutinho’s late goal handed Liverpool a crucial victory in a superb match.

Brendan Rodgers named his expected XI, which meant Joe Allen – often an option in big games – only on the bench.

Manuel Pellegrini played Gael Clichy ahead of Aleksandar Kolarov because of his his defensive discipline, and decided Sergio Aguero wasn’t fit enough to start the game, so continued with a 4-2-3-1 and Edin Dzeko upfront alone.

This was the classic game of two halves – Liverpool were dominant in the first period, Manchester City were superior after the break. Read more »

Atletico 1-0 Barcelona: Gabi v Busquets, and pressing the opposition keeper?

April 11, 2014
Atletico 1-0 Barcelona: Gabi v Busquets, and pressing the opposition keeper?

At the fifth time of asking this season, a contest between these two finally produced a winner – Atletico deservedly progressing to the semi-finals.

Diego Simeone was without two key players. Diego Costa hadn’t recovered from limping off in the first leg, and Arda Turan was also out. This meant Adrian Lopez played upfront and Raul Garcia played on the right of midfield.

Tata Martino continued with Cesc Fabregas and Neymar in the side, while Marc Bartra started as Gerard Pique was absent.

Atletico should have had the game wrapped up inside the first half, creating a number of great opportunities and hitting the woodwork three times. Read more »

Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United: Guardiola uses his full-backs in midfield, but Bayern better with a standard system

April 10, 2014
Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United: Guardiola uses his full-backs in midfield, but Bayern better with a standard system

Pep Guardiola played an unusual system, but it didn’t help Bayern break down Manchester United.

Guardiola fielded Toni Kroos in the pivot role, with Thomas Muller in midfield and Mario Mandzukic returning upfront.

David Moyes brought Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher into his midfield, and recalled Patrice Evra and Chris Smalling at the back.

The pattern of the game wasn’t significantly different from the first leg, and the major talking point was Guardiola’s use of his two full-backs. Read more »

Chelsea 2-0 PSG: Mourinho takes risks late on

April 9, 2014
Chelsea 2-0 PSG: Mourinho takes risks late on

Chelsea recorded the 2-0 victory they required to progress on away goals.

Jose Mourinho welcomed back Samuel Eto’o upfront, although was without Nemanja Matic and Ramires in the centre of midfield. Eden Hazard started on the left, but lasted only a quarter of the game before being replaced by Andre Schurrle.

Laurent Blanc was without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so moved Edinson Cavani upfront and brought on Lucas Moura down the right, which promised more counter-attacking thrust.

This was a tense but poor quality game for this level, and the major tactical interest was how Chelsea became more attacking late on. Read more »

Everton 3-0 Arsenal: Everton maintain their challenge for fourth place

April 7, 2014
Everton 3-0 Arsenal: Everton maintain their challenge for fourth place

Everton outfoxed Arsenal with a surprise strategy and some clever movement.

Roberto Martinez wasn’t able to welcome back Phil Jagielka, but John Stones has been excellent as his replacement. Ross Barkley was left out, with Leon Osman favoured – but Osman barely lasted ten minutes before getting injured, and Barkley replaced him.

Arsene Wenger is without the preferred left side of his defence, as well as Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Aaron Ramsey was on the bench after three months out, alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had been expected to return.

Everton have often won games late on this season, but here they took command in the first half and sealed the contest on the hour mark. Read more »

Barcelona 1-1 Atletico: a predictable pattern, and two great goals

April 5, 2014
Barcelona 1-1 Atletico: a predictable pattern, and two great goals

Atletico and Barcelona played out their fourth draw of the 2013/14 campaign – with two crucial meetings still to come…

Tato Martino selected his expected side for this match: his ‘big game’ shape with Cesc Fabregas in midfield, Andres Iniesta out on the left and Neymar on the right. Gerard Pique didn’t last the first half, and was replaced by Marc Bartra.

Diego Simeone also named his expected side, and Atletico also suffered from an injury. Diego Costa was doubtful before the game and pulled up midway through the first half. He was replaced by Brazilian playmaker Diego, who played behind David Villa.

The first half was slow and cautious, the second much more intense – but the overriding feeling was that these two sides knew each other too well, and the tactical battle was rather familiar. It was more notable for minor points of interest, rather than the overall pattern – which was entirely as expected. Read more »

Manchester United 1-1 Bayern Munich: Welbeck causes problems upfront but Bayern attack down the right

April 4, 2014
Manchester United 1-1 Bayern Munich: Welbeck causes problems upfront but Bayern attack down the right

Bayern started as overwhelming favourites and dominated for the majority of the game, but Manchester United caused problems and weren’t flattered by a draw.

David Moyes had both first-choice full-backs out, so Phil Jones and Alexander Buttner played in those positions. Further forward, Moyes picked Ryan Giggs after his excellent game against Olympiakos in the previous round. Juan Mata is cup-tied.

Pep Guardiola was without Dante so Javi Martinez played at the back. Mario Gotze was only on the bench, as was Mario Mandzukic – Thomas Muller led the line.

Bayern had lots of possession, but didn’t create better goalscoring opportunities than Manchester United. Read more »

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City: all the attacking down the same flank

April 1, 2014
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City: all the attacking down the same flank

Arsenal and Manchester City played out an enjoyable 1-1 draw.

Arsene Wenger was still without Laurent Koscielny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a knock, so Thomas Vermaelen continued at the back and Lukas Podolski returned to the side.

Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City side were unchanged from the side that won convincingly at Old Trafford in midweek.

City started well and took the game to Arsenal, but the home side responded and looked more likely to score at 1-1. Read more »

Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City: United forced to change shape within ten minutes

March 26, 2014
Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City: United forced to change shape within ten minutes

Manchester City recorded a comfortable victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

David Moyes named Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in the same team for the first time, with Danny Welbeck returning to the side. Rio Ferdinand was fit enough to return at the back.

Manuel Pellegrini went for Edin Dzeko ahead of Alvaro Negredo, and Gael Clichy ahead of Aleksandar Kolarov.

City started brilliantly, and probably should have won the game within the first 25 minutes. Read more »

Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal: Chelsea’s pressing wins the game within 20 minutes

March 25, 2014
Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal: Chelsea’s pressing wins the game within 20 minutes

Jose Mourinho recorded his biggest league victory as Chelsea manager with a crushing win over Arsenal.

Mourinho continued with Samuel Eto’o upfront rather than Fernando Torres – Eto’o only lasted 10 minutes, but scored the opener. In midfield, Mourinho was without Ramires and Willian, both suspended – he left out Frank Lampard and played David Luiz in the centre of midfield alongside Nemanja Matic.

Arsene Wenger named the same side that defeated Tottenham the previous weekend.

This game was done and dusted within the first quarter – Chelsea were 3-0 up, Arsenal were one man down, and the rest of the game was simply a question how how many Chelsea would score. Read more »