Barcelona 3-1 Atletico: Suarez’s running brings out the best of Messi and Neymar on the flanks

January 14, 2015
Barcelona 3-1 Atletico: Suarez’s running brings out the best of Messi and Neymar on the flanks

Barcelona completely outplayed reigning champions Atletico Madrid, with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez’s excellent combinations particularly impressive.

Luis Enrique fielded Ivan Rakitic rather than Xavi Hernandez in midfield, and played both his attacking full-backs in tandem.

The most interesting part of Diego Simeone’s team selection was the decision to play Jesus Gamez, usually a right-back, on the left of his defence – regular left-back Guilherme Siqueira was on the bench, and presumably not 100% fit.

Barcelona’s performance in isolation was more interesting than the clash between the systems, and after a week of turmoil this was a desperately needed victory for Luis Enrique. Read more »

Valencia 2-1 Real Madrid: Valencia risk 3 v 3 at the back and push the wing-backs forward

January 7, 2015
Valencia 2-1 Real Madrid: Valencia risk 3 v 3 at the back and push the wing-backs forward

Valencia ended Real Madrid’s incredible 22-match winning run with a brave tactical performance at the Mestalla.

Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo continued with the 3-5-2 system he’d deployed for the first time in the 1-0 win at Eibar just before the winter break. There was a significant change, however, with new signing Enzo Perez coming straight into the side in place of Javi Fuego, while Antonio Barragan replaced Sofiane Feghouli on the right. On the opposite flank, Pablo Piatti didn’t last the first half, and was replaced by Jose Gaya.

Carlo Ancelotti selected the expected side, the starting XI which – aside from the absence of Luka Modric, who is still out injured – is his first-choice this season.

(Watch YouTube highlights here)

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World Cup 2014 best XI

July 24, 2014
World Cup 2014 best XI

Manuel Neuer, Germany

Other goalkeepers have made more spectacular saves, but Neuer’s all-round goalkeeping was by far the best in the tournament.

His performance against Algeria in the second round was remarkably proactive, and the type of display that genuinely might inspire the next generation of goalkeepers to play in a completely different way. He repeatedly swept well outside his penalty area, and on two occasions he wasn’t simply making interceptions or clearances, but instead getting stuck into 50:50 tackles.

When called upon to make saves, he could do that too – a double save from Paulinho against Brazil (albeit when the game was effectively over) was the highlight. Read more »