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Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid: poor Atletico transitions mean Real dominate the entire tie

April 24, 2015
Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid: poor Atletico transitions mean Real dominate the entire tie

Javier Hernandez struck in the 178th of the 180 minutes in this European Cup quarter-final, but Real had been the better side throughout.

Real selection

Carlo Ancelotti had a mini-injury crisis, with Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Marcelo all out.

This meant Javier Hernandez, Fabio Coentrao and Isco were all recalled, although the replacement for Modric was more surprising – Sergio Ramos was fielded in the middle alongside Toni Kroos, as Ancelotti’s system was more 4-4-2, or 4-2-2-2, than 4-3-3.

Atletico selection

Diego Simeone elected to leave out Gabi, with Koke fielded in a central role and Saul on the left wing.

However, Simeone reverted back to his usual approach at half-time, with Gabi returning, Koke pushing out wide, and Saul withdrawn – suggesting Simeone felt his initial starting selection wasn’t right.

Match summary

We’ve come to expect Real dominating possession and Atletico sitting back, staying compact and then playing on the counter-attack. However, Atletico simply weren’t able to launch many breaks, and therefore found themselves effectively parking the bus for the majority of the game. Real had plenty of chances, and only Jan Oblak’s heroics kept Atletico in the tie.

The problem with this contest, however, is that it’s simply happened too often. This was the eighth Real v Atletico game this season, and the 13th since the start of last season. The pattern to the game is familiar, and the main points of interest weren’t about the overall tactical battle, but very small things. Therefore, a rundown of some of these minor points is more interesting… Read more »

Porto 3-1 Bayern: Porto press effectively

April 17, 2015
Porto 3-1 Bayern: Porto press effectively

Porto recorded a hugely impressive victory, largely thanks to their intense pressing in the opening stages, which put them into an early two-goal lead.

Porto selection

Julen Lopetegui was still without forward Cristian Tello, who had scored five goals in four games before suffering a thigh injury.

The good news, however, was that captain and centre-forward Jackson Martinez was fit again to lead the line, despite initial fears he wouldn’t even make the second leg. The rest of the side was as expected.

Bayern selection

Pep Guardiola was without his two wing wizards, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, which meant Bayern were forced to play in a somewhat narrow system which was roughly 4-3-2-1.

David Alaba, Mehdi Benatia and Bastian Schweinsteiger were also missing, which meant that while Guardiola was still able to call upon a solid group of players, he didn’t have many tactical options or alternatives from the bench after half-time.

Match summary

Porto played this very impressively, pressing intensely in phases to win the ball in dangerous positions, before gradually sitting deeper and remaining compact.

Read more »

Marseille 2-3 PSG: Bielsa’s pressing has positives and negatives

April 8, 2015
Marseille 2-3 PSG: Bielsa’s pressing has positives and negatives

Paris Saint-German attacked directly and created lots of chances against a ludicrously proactive Marseille side who pressed extremely intensely until they tired.

PSG maintain their position at the top, with Marseille in third, behind Lyon.

Marseille selection

Marcelo Bielsa was without suspended defensive midfielder Giannelli Imbula, so Mario Lemina came into the side.

Jeremy Morel returned on the left of the defence, and otherwise the side was unchanged.

PSG selection

There were few surprises from Laurent Blanc. Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani got the nod over Ezequiel Lavezzi out wide.

Blanc had a problem at the back, however, when David Luiz limped off midway through the first half with a hamstring injury. Gregory van der Wiel replaced him and played right-back, with Marquinhos pushing inside into the middle.

Match summary

Big Ligue 1 games are often somewhat dull, but this was an extremely enjoyable, high-tempo game – largely because of Marseille’s pressing.

This had benefits and drawbacks, however, illustrated by the chances at both ends.

YouTube highlights here.

Read more »

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 »