Porto 2-1 Benfica: late Kelvin winner puts Porto on the verge of the title

May 14, 2013
Porto 2-1 Benfica: late Kelvin winner puts Porto on the verge of the title

A draw would have kept Benfica at the top – but a dramatic goal from substitute Kelvin means Porto go into the final day as favourites for the title.

Vitor Pereira used his expected starting XI, although midfielders Joao Moutinho and Lucho Gonzalez often played the other way around to their normal format.

Jorge Jesus used Andre Almeida instead of Lorenzo Malgarejo at left-back, while Ola John returned with Oscar Cardozo on the bench.

This was a very scrappy game with relatively little technical quality or tactical surprises. Read more »

Wigan 1-0 Manchester City: Wigan stifle City and attack with tremendous width

May 13, 2013
Wigan 1-0 Manchester City: Wigan stifle City and attack with tremendous width

Ben Watson headed a stoppage time winner as Wigan lifted the FA Cup for the first time.

Roberto Martinez was able to call upon Antolin Alcaraz in the centre of his three-man defence, and he used James McArthur as a right-wing-back and Jordi Gomez in central midfield.

Roberto Mancini picked Joe Hart despite having used Costel Pantilimon as his FA Cup goalkeeper throughout the competition. James Milner was only on the bench, as Mancini went with two ‘interiors’ and two forwards.

The nature of the result might suggest a ’smash and grab’ – but Martinez’s tactics outfoxed Mancini, and Wigan fully deserved their victory. Read more »

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas uses subs well, Benitez doesn’t react decisively

May 9, 2013
Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas uses subs well, Benitez doesn’t react decisively

Tottenham twice came back from behind in an exciting, open game at Stamford Bridge.

Rafael Benitez selected Fernando Torres upfront, and David Luiz as a deep-lying midfielder, so Branislav Ivanovic partnered Gary Cahill in the centre.

Andre Villas-Boas was without Mousa Dembele, so Scott Parker played alongside Tom Huddlestone. Upfront, Emmanuel Adebayor got the nod over Jermain Defoe.

Tottenham dominated possession, but in terms of creativity Chelsea had the upper hand in midfield, and Tottenham needed Villas-Boas’ substitutions to snatch a point. Read more »

Barcelona 0-3 Bayern: Bayern untroubled at the back & consistently dangerous down the flanks

May 1, 2013
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern: Bayern untroubled at the back & consistently dangerous down the flanks

Bayern produced another highly impressive performance to qualify for the Champions League final with ease.

Tito Vilanova decided not to risk the half-fit Lionel Messi, so Cesc Fabregas played as the false nine. David Villa replaced Alexis Sanchez, while Alex Song was in for the injured Sergio Busquets, and Adriano for the suspended Jordi Alba.

Jupp Heynckes brought back Mario Mandzukic for Mario Gomez, and Daniel van Buyten played rather than Dante.

Bayern replicated last week’s second half performance – they pressed before retreating into a solid defensive shape, then counter-attacked expertly.

Read more »

Real Madrid 2-0 Dortmund: Modric finds his role and Real’s Plan B increases the pressure

May 1, 2013
Real Madrid 2-0 Dortmund: Modric finds his role and Real’s Plan B increases the pressure

Real Madrid created enough chances to get back in the tie, but Dortmund progress to the final.

Jose Mourinho left out Sami Khedira to field a very technical midfield trio, while Angel Di Maria and Michael Essien returned, and Sergio Ramos was back in the centre of defence.

Jurgen Klopp unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, although was forced to replace the injured Mario Gotze with Kevin Grosskreutz early on, with Marco Reus moving to a central role.

Real’s starting shape resulted in an early spell of pressure – and their Plan B caused problems too. Read more »

Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

April 30, 2013
Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

Real Sociedad opened up a five-point gap in the race for fourth place.

Philippe Montanier brought in Alberto de la Bella for the injured Liassine Cadamuro at left-back, Asier Illarramendi returned after suspension, but Antoine Griezmann was banned so Gonzalo Castro played on the left.

From the side that thrashed Malaga 5-1, Ernesto Valverde brought Ricardo Costa back into the centre of his defence, while Sofiane Feghouli started on the right, as Canales was injured again. Jonas switched to the left.

The key feature of this game was not about formations, individual positioning or possession dominance – but instead about Real Sociedad’s brilliant quick counter-attacks that repeatedly carved Valencia open. Read more »