Tottenham 2-2 Everton: Spurs go ahead very early, then equalise very late

April 8, 2013
Tottenham 2-2 Everton: Spurs go ahead very early, then equalise very late

An interesting battle between two sides both without their key attacking player.

Gareth Bale was injured – as were Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon. Andre Villas-Boas was forced to select a ‘mezzala’ on either side – Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson – in the absence of natural wide players. Jan Vertonghen was at left-back.

David Moyes was without Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini. He handed a rare start to Ross Barkley, and used Leon Osman behind Victor Anichebe, rather than selecting two strikers.

This was an interesting but disjointed game, where both sides had spells of dominance. There were lots of small tactical features, rather than a clear overall pattern. Read more »

Fiorentina 2-2 Milan: Montella reacts calmly to Fiorentina’s first-half setbacks

April 8, 2013
Fiorentina 2-2 Milan: Montella reacts calmly to Fiorentina’s first-half setbacks

Despite a numerical disadvantage and two men injured early on, Fiorentina came back from 2-0 down to keep their Champions League hopes alive.

Vincenzo Montella was surprisingly able to call upon Stevan Jovetic – although he didn’t look 100% fit, and didn’t make it to the second half. Gonzalo Rodriguez was unavailable, so Nenad Tomovic started at the back.

Max Allegri used Riccardo Montolivo in the deep-lying role against his old club, while Cristian Zapata returned in place of Daniele Bonera.

Milan took control in the first hour, but the way Fiorentina responded was highly impressive. Read more »

Real Madrid 3-0 Galatasaray: a comfortable win

April 4, 2013
Real Madrid 3-0 Galatasaray: a comfortable win

Galatasaray attacked bravely – but left too much space for Real to break into.

Jose Mourinho used Michael Essien at right-back, with Karim Benzema rather than Gonzalo Higuain upfront.

Fatih Terim used exactly the same shape he used in the previous Champions League match at Schalke, in the same diamond formation.

Galatasaray had their moments, and created some decent chances – but Real’s creative players were given too much time on the ball. Read more »

Malaga 0-0 Dortmund: Dortmund create more chances, but fail to take them

April 4, 2013
Malaga 0-0 Dortmund: Dortmund create more chances, but fail to take them

Dortmund should be out of sight – but after the German champions were unable to score an away goal, Malaga are still in the tie.

Manuel Pellegrini named roughly his expected side – Julio Baptista played the support striker role.

Jurgen Klopp used Kevin Grosskreutz rather than Jakub Blaszczykowski, which meant Mario Gotze was central and Marco Reus on the right. Felipe Santana continued to deputise for Mats Hummels, while Sebastian Kehl was in Sven Bender’s position.

In a clash between similar football sides, Dortmund pressed better and attacked with neater combinations – only finishing let them down. Read more »

PSG 2-2 Barcelona: Ancelotti justified in using a brave starting line-up

April 3, 2013
PSG 2-2 Barcelona: Ancelotti justified in using a brave starting line-up

Barcelona twice took the lead, PSG twice equalised.

Carlo Ancelotti surprisingly named David Beckham as part of a midfield two, with four outright attacking players used in a 4-4-1-1 system.

Tito Vilanova played Alexis Sanchez, rather than Cristian Tello, as part of his front three.

Barcelona dominated in terms of possession and territory, and there was an element of fortune for both PSG’s goals – but overall Ancelotti’s side defended solidly and counter-attacked effectively. Read more »

Bayern 2-0 Juve: Bayern’s pressing prevents Juve bringing their strike duo into play

April 3, 2013
Bayern 2-0 Juve: Bayern’s pressing prevents Juve bringing their strike duo into play

Bayern take a commanding lead into the second leg, after a dominant first leg performance.

Jupp Heynckes named his expected side – Luiz Gustavo came in for the suspended Javi Martinez – although Toni Kroos’ early injury pushed Thomas Muller inside, with Arjen Robben introduced on the right.

Despite strong rumours Antonio Conte would select a 3-5-1-1 formation, he went for the usual 3-5-2 with Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella (his least favoured strike duo this season) upfront.d

This was all about Bayern – they pressed excellently and Juventus struggled to put together good attacking moves, or bring their strike duo into play. Read more »

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United: Mata’s ball to Ba bypasses the zone United kept secure

April 2, 2013
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United: Mata’s ball to Ba bypasses the zone United kept secure

Juan Mata and Demba Ba combined for a brilliant goal in an otherwise quiet match.

Rafael Benitez made various changes from the side that lost at Southampton on Saturday – he fielded his three exciting creators together behind Demba Ba.

Sir Alex Ferguson left out Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, while Wayne Rooney was injured, so Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck were upfront.

A terrible first half was followed by a much more open second. Read more »

France 0-1 Spain: both sides use one wide player for ball retention and the other for direct attacks

March 28, 2013
France 0-1 Spain: both sides use one wide player for ball retention and the other for direct attacks

Spain recorded a narrow victory, and go one point clear of France at the top of Group I.

Didier Deschamps used Patrice Evra rather than Gael Clichy at left-back, and the late withdrawal of Mamadou Sakho saw Laurent Koscielny start at centre-back. But the key change was higher up – from the side that defeated Georgia 3-1, Olivier Giroud was dropped, with Yohan Cabaye coming into the centre of midfield, turning a 4-4-2 into a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3.

Vicente del Bosque was without left-back Jordi Alba, so Nacho Monreal played instead, while Victor Valdes continued as Iker Casillas is out injured. In midfield, Del Bosque was able to bring back Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso, who both missed the surprise 1-1 draw with Finland. Pedro Rodriguez also returned. Santi Cazorla, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas missed out.

This was a tight match with little to choose between the sides – France had plenty of opportunities. Read more »

Venezuela 1-0 Colombia: Venezuela keep two upfront & offer a consistent threat on the break

March 27, 2013
Venezuela 1-0 Colombia: Venezuela keep two upfront & offer a consistent threat on the break

Venezuela recorded an important victory to strengthen their chances of qualifying for their first-ever World Cup.

Cesar Farias made two changes from the side which lost 3-0 to Argentina. Cesar Gonzalez replaced Luis Seijas on the right, while Fernando Aristeguieta played upfront rather than Frank Feltscher.

Mario Yepes was out, so Luis Perea came in at the back. Jose Pekerman pushed Juan Cuadrado forward to the right wing, with Juan Zuniga at right-back.

Venezuela deserved this victory – they were forced to withstand pressure as Colombia dominated possession throughout, but the home side produced more goalscoring opportunities. Read more »

Montenegro 1-1 England: Montenegro start timidly but introduce attackers effectively

March 27, 2013
Montenegro 1-1 England: Montenegro start timidly but introduce attackers effectively

Branko Brnovic surprisingly started with a lone forward, but ended up with four outright attackers as Montenegro deservedly claimed a point.

Brnovic’s selection was hampered by injuries and suspensions – Miodrag Dzudovic, Mitar Novakovic and Simon Vukcevic all came into the side.

Roy Hodgson made significant changes from the side that comfortably defeated San Marino on Friday evening, with Danny Welbeck, Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick, James Milner, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson returning.

A game of two halves – England dominated against an oddly passive Montenegro, but were unable to deal with the increased attacking threat after half-time. Read more »