Olympiakos 2-0 Manchester United: Olympiakos brave with positioning and pressing

February 26, 2014
Olympiakos 2-0 Manchester United: Olympiakos brave with positioning and pressing

Manchester United produced their worst performance of David Moyes’ reign so far, and Olympiakos fully deserved their two-goal victory.

Michel was without Javier Saviola upfront, so Michael Olaitan led the line.

David Moyes selected his two most cautious options on the flanks, in an otherwise unsurprising team selection.

Olympiakos weren’t outstanding on the night, but their overall gameplan worked effectively. Read more »

Arsenal 0-2 Bayern: Bayern dominant down the right, especially after Arsenal reduced to ten

February 20, 2014
Arsenal 0-2 Bayern: Bayern dominant down the right, especially after Arsenal reduced to ten

Arsenal started excellently but Bayern increasingly demonstrated their superiority.

Arsene Wenger made the surprise decision to continue with Yaya Sanogo upfront – the Frenchman had only made his full debut in the weekend win over Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola also named a surprise XI, with Javi Martinez in the side and Philipp Lahm back in his old right-back role. Thomas Muller was only on the bench.

Arsenal were excellent for the first 10 minutes, but after Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty Bayern grew into the game, and were completely dominant after Wojciech Szczesny’s red card. Read more »

Manchester City 0-2 Barcelona: City weather the storm before Demichelis tackle changes the tie

February 19, 2014
Manchester City 0-2 Barcelona: City weather the storm before Demichelis tackle changes the tie

Goals from Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves gave Barcelona a significant lead going into the second leg.

Manuel Pellegrini unsurprisingly switched to a 4-2-3-1 / 4-4-1-1 formation, but surprisingly named two left-backs in tandem, Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov. Fernandinho was fit to return in midfield, while Martin Demichelis played at the back.

Tata Martino was cautious with his team selection, playing Andres Iniesta on the left of a front three, with Cesc Fabregas in midfield.

Barcelona enjoyed unprecedented spells of possession for an away side at the Etihad, but failed to convert their dominance into clear-cut chances in the first half – before Demichelis’ rash tackle at the start of the second half changed the tie. Read more »

Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool: Arsenal more disciplined despite a rotated side

February 18, 2014
Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool: Arsenal more disciplined despite a rotated side

Arsenal narrowly won an extremely open cup tie.

Arsene Wenger rested various players ahead of the meeting with Bayern on Wednesday. The most interesting inclusion was striker Yaya Sanogo, making his first start.

Brendan Rodgers brought back Daniel Agger in place of Kolo Toure, selected Joe Allen rather than  Jordan Henderson, and also gave a runout to reserve goalkeeper Brad Jones.

Arsenal were much improved compared to last weekend, particularly in terms of positioning and organisation. Read more »

Fiorentina 1-2 Inter: Palacio’s positional variation crucial in Inter victory

February 17, 2014
Fiorentina 1-2 Inter: Palacio’s positional variation crucial in Inter victory

Fifth-placed Inter won at fourth-placed Fiorentina, cutting the game between them to five points.

Vincenzo Montella was still without Giuseppe Rossi and a host of defenders, with star midfielder Borja Valero suspended. Mario Gomez was fit enough to be on the bench, however, after a few months out – Joaquin and Josip Ilicic were upfront form the start.

Walter Mazzarri named an unchanged side from last weekend’s 1-0 win over Sassuolo.

Inter were the better side here – more organised without the ball and more purposeful with possession. Read more »

Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea: City stop Chelsea’s counter-attacks and win comfortably

February 17, 2014
Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea: City stop Chelsea’s counter-attacks and win comfortably

Manchester City gained revenge for their recent league defeat to Chelsea.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side was very different from that match, with Costel Pantilimon, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy, Javi Garcia, James Milner and Stevan Jovetic all included.

Jose Mourinho’s, however, named the closest thing possible to the XI that won at the Etihad. John Terry was out, so David Luiz moved back and John Obi Mikel came into the midfield.

City were significantly superior throughout, amazingly so given how how confidently they were beaten less than a fortnight ago. Read more »

Monaco 1-1 PSG: Ranieri switches to a diamond to prompt a Monaco fightback

February 12, 2014
Monaco 1-1 PSG: Ranieri switches to a diamond to prompt a Monaco fightback

For the second time this season, France’s top two played out a 1-1 draw.

Claudio Ranieri will be without Falcao for the rest of the campaign, and Dimitar Berbatov was only on the bench. He played a 4-4-2 system that became 4-2-2-2 when the wide players advanced, and drifted inside.

Laurent Blanc was without Edinson Cavani. He continued with a 4-3-3 system, with his new signing, Yohan Cabaye, also only on the bench.

This was a reasonably interesting match, where PSG dominated but Monaco did well to get themselves back into the game Read more »

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal: game over after 20 minutes thanks to superb one-touch football

February 10, 2014
Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal: game over after 20 minutes thanks to superb one-touch football

Liverpool produced the best spell of football the Premier League has seen this season, and recorded a crushing victory over the (former) league leaders.

Brendan Rodgers named an unchanged side, despite the option of fit-again Joe Allen. He’s still without four key defenders.

Arsene Wenger brought Jack Wilshere into the side, moving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out to the right flank. Nacho Monreal continued at left-back.

This was such a convincing victory, and the game was won so quickly, that it almost defies analysis. Liverpool established their lead from two set-pieces but continually opened up Arsenal in open play, and were always ready to pounce on the counter-attack. Read more »

Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea: cautious team selection from Mourinho, but positive approach

February 4, 2014
Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea: cautious team selection from Mourinho, but positive approach

Chelsea kept a clean sheet and created a number of chances in a highly impressive away performance.

Manuel Pellegrini was without Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Fernandinho. He kept a 4-4-2 with Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo upfront, and brought Martin Demichelis into the midfield.

Jose Mourinho left out Oscar and played a cautious midfield featuring both David Luiz and Nemanja Matic.

Chelsea were excellent here, working extremely hard without the ball, counter-attacking effectively and being more adventurous than expected. Read more »

Barcelona 2-3 Valencia: Valencia rewarded for bravery on the counter-attack

February 3, 2014
Barcelona 2-3 Valencia: Valencia rewarded for bravery on the counter-attack

Barcelona suffered their first home defeat of the season, to a Valencia side who had the third-worst away record in La Liga.

Tata Martino rested Andres Iniesta, and is still without Neymar.

Valencia had a busy few days in the transfer window – mainly with players departing. Helder Postiga, Ever Banega and Andres Guardado have all left the club. Juan Antonio Pizzi selected a cautious XI with five players across midfield, including two holding midfielders, while Jonas was only on the bench.

This was a peculiar game. Barcelona were utterly dominant for the first 40 minutes, with little sign Valencia were set to record an upset. This wasn’t exactly a masterclass from Pizzi, but elements of Valencia’s play – and particularly their bravery in getting men forward on the break – should be applauded. Read more »

Liverpool 4-0 Everton: direct football and Sturridge wide-left helps Liverpool win easily

January 29, 2014
Liverpool 4-0 Everton: direct football and Sturridge wide-left helps Liverpool win easily

Another high-scoring Merseyside derby – but this time, the goals were all at one end.

Brendan Rodgers was without Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva, so had a patched-up back four, with Steven Gerrard in the deepest midfield role.

Roberto Martinez welcomed back Ross Barkley, but was without both Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman.

In an extremely intense, fast-paced match, Liverpool effectively sealed the victory by half-time. Read more »

Chelsea 3-1 Man United: Moyes’ use of Januzaj proves clever, but United sloppy at the back

January 20, 2014
Chelsea 3-1 Man United: Moyes’ use of Januzaj proves clever, but United sloppy at the back

Samuel Eto’o scored a hattrick as Chelsea convincingly defeated Manchester United without playing particularly well.

Jose Mourinho welcomed back Branislav Ivanovic, meaning Cesar Azpilicueta reverted to left-back and Ashley Cole was dropped. Nemanja Matic was on the bench, while Eto’o got the nod over Fernando Torres upfront.

David Moyes brought Phil Jones into his midfield and played Ashley Young on the left, moving Adnan Januzaj central and dropping Shinji Kagawa.

Manchester United actually started very well, but an unfortunate concession and sloppy set-piece defending let them down. Read more »

Benfica 2-0 Porto: good midfield pressure and quick attacking from the home side

January 17, 2014
Benfica 2-0 Porto: good midfield pressure and quick attacking from the home side

Benfica went top of the league with a controlled, confident victory at the Estadio da Luz.

Jorge Jesus played his usual outfield players, although in goal Artur Moraes was unavailable so back-up Jan Oblak played instead. This was Nemanja Matic’s final game before his return to Chelsea.

Paolo Fonseca played Carlos Eduardo at the head of his midfield trio, with Lucho Gonzalez deeper, and Josue and Steven Defour on the bench. Nicolas Otamendi was at centre-back, rather than Maicon.

Benfica were clearly the better side throughout this contest, more organised without the ball and more purposeful in possession. Read more »

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Barcelona: different styles but similar lack of invention upfront

January 12, 2014
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Barcelona: different styles but similar lack of invention upfront

La Liga’s top of the table clash was intense and intriguing, but ultimately goalless.

Diego Simeone named his expected side, with right-back Juanfran available after his suspension was overturned.

Despite Lionel Messi’s return in midweek against Getafe, he wasn’t risked from the start – he joined Neymar on the bench, and Cesc Fabregas played as the false nine.

A draw was a fair result – both sides’ gameplan was clear, but the defences came out on top. Read more »

Atletico Madrid proving tackling can be a quality

January 10, 2014
Atletico Madrid proving tackling can be a quality

This weekend, Atletico Madrid host Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon stadium in the biggest game of the European season so far.

The two sides are level on points, and therefore it is literally a top of the table clash – La Liga’s rules mean teams are separated by head-to-head results rather than goal difference, and therefore having not played each other this season, the sides can’t be separated.

Halfway through the season, La Liga’s best two clubs are neck-and-neck, joint first. Read more »

Juventus 3-0 Roma: Juventus sit extremely deep to prevent Roma counter-attacking

January 6, 2014
Juventus 3-0 Roma: Juventus sit extremely deep to prevent Roma counter-attacking

Juventus took a big step towards a third consecutive title with a convincing victory over their closest challengers.

Antonio Conte welcomed back Andrea Pirlo in the deep playmaking position, and was able to select his first-choice starting XI.

Rudi Garcia had Francesco Totti back after injury, and opted for Adem Ljajic rather than Mattia Destro in the forward trio.

Juventus created little in open play, but defended solidly and pounced at set-pieces – it was something of an ‘underdog’ victory, even though the home side started as favourites. Read more »

Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool: Villas-Boas’ return to a high line results in him losing his job

December 16, 2013
Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool: Villas-Boas’ return to a high line results in him losing his job

Liverpool were completely dominant throughout the 90 minutes in a staggeringly one-sided game.

Andre Villas-Boas selected a team very similar to the XI that drew with Manchester United recently, although injury problems at the back forced him to play Etienne Capoue out of position at centre-back, and Kyle Naughton at left-back.

Brendan Rodgers named his expected side, with Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge out injured.

Liverpool ripped Spurs apart with impressive efficiency, but it was amazingly easy for them to penetrate the Spurs defence. Read more »

Milan 0-0 Ajax: Milan hold on with ten men

December 12, 2013
Milan 0-0 Ajax: Milan hold on with ten men

Riccardo Montolivo’s early dismissal meant Ajax spent an hour trying, and failing, to break down Milan’s deep defence.

Max Allegri made huge changes from the side which drew 2-2 at Livorno, bringing in six players – Stephan El Shaarawy was the most eye-catching inclusion, although he didn’t last long.

Frank De Boer also made a few changes. Bojan started upfront against his former club, while Daley Blind was at left-back with Christian Poulsen coming into the midfield.

This was far from open, but it was certainly entertaining. Montolivo’s red card forced both managers to change their plans quickly, and overall Ajax – the side needing the win – were unimpressive in their attempts to score. Read more »

Dortmund 0-1 Leverkusen: unusual shape allows Leverkusen to dominate the centre and attack in behind

December 10, 2013
Dortmund 0-1 Leverkusen: unusual shape allows Leverkusen to dominate the centre and attack in behind

Leverkusen moved six points clear of Dortmund with a well-deserved victory.

Jurgen Klopp was still without a host of defenders and Ikay Gundogan, and Marco Reus was fit enough only for the bench.

Sami Hyypia made one change: Omer Toprak replaced Philipp Wollscheid in the centre of defence.

Leverkusen were the better side here – more assured defensively and more purposeful with their attacking. Read more »

Arsenal 1-1 Everton: Everton passing impresses but Arsenal offer more pentration

December 9, 2013
Arsenal 1-1 Everton: Everton passing impresses but Arsenal offer more pentration

Arsenal extended their lead at the top, while Everton extended the Premier League’s longest unbeaten run.

Arsene Wenger was still without Bacary Sagna, so Carl Jenkinson played instead, while Theo Walcott was still on the bench.

Roberto Martinez named an unchanged XI from the side that recorded a famous victory at Old Trafford in midweek.

Everton were highly impressive throughout the first half, although ended up searching for a late equaliser. Read more »

Roma 2-1 Fiorentina: everything down the wings

December 9, 2013
Roma 2-1 Fiorentina: everything down the wings

Roma ended a run of four draws with a victory over Fiorentina in a highly entertaining match.

Rudi Garcia’s side was as expected – Adem Ljajic continued to play the Francesco Totti role against his former side, while Dodo was still at left-back in place of Federico Balzaretti.

Vincenzo Montella moved Juan Vargas forward to the left flank having excelled at left-back against Verona in midweek. Manuel Pasqual returned at left-back, with Joaquin making way and Juan Cuadrado switching flanks. Alberto Aquilani returned in place of Matias Vecino in midfield, while David Pizarro was only fit enough for the bench.

This game was most interesting for its overall pattern, rather than for the specifics of either side’s play. Read more »

Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United: Pardew beefs up his midfield and Newcastle dominate possession

December 8, 2013
Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United: Pardew beefs up his midfield and Newcastle dominate possession

Manchester United lost their second consecutive home league match for the first time over a decade.

David Moyes made seven changes from the side that lost to Everton in midweek. Wayne Rooney was suspended and Michael Carrick was still injured, but Robin van Persie returned.

Alan Pardew moved away from the 4-4-2 system that had beaten Chelsea and Tottenham in recent weeks, bringing Vurnon Anita into the midfield and leaving Loic Remy alone upfront.

Moyes’ side had been a touch unfortunate against Everton in midweek, but here they were simply outplayed by a superior unit. Read more »

Tottenham 2-2 Manchester United: Villas-Boas uses a much more cautious system

December 2, 2013
Tottenham 2-2 Manchester United: Villas-Boas uses a much more cautious system

Tottenham went ahead twice, but mistakes allowed Manchester United back into the game.

Andre Villas-Boas brought back Vlad Chiriches in defence, Mousa Dembele in midfield, plus Aaron Lennon and Nacer Chadli on the flanks.

David Moyes was still without Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick – Tom Cleverley partnered Phil Jones in the middle, despite the option of £27.5m signing Marouane Fellaini.

There was no major theme throughout this game, aside from its openness, but there were a variety of interesting tactical points.

Read more »

Dortmund 0-3 Bayern: superior squad proves crucial as Bayern extend their lead

November 26, 2013
Dortmund 0-3 Bayern: superior squad proves crucial as Bayern extend their lead

Pep Guardiola demonstrated Bayern’s tactical flexibility in the second half, introducing Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara to great effect.

Jurgen Klopp had severe injury problems for this contest – as well as the continued absence of Ilkay Gundogan, his entire first-choice back four were out injured. 34-year-old Manuel Friedrich, previously without a club, was drafted in to play at centre-back.

Guardiola was without Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger, however, and used Phillip Lahm in midfield.

The scoreline exaggerates Bayern’s dominance – for long periods Dortmund competed well, but Bayern simply had greater strength in depth. Read more »

Manchester City 6-0 Tottenham: Spurs’ centre-backs constantly exposed as City run riot

November 25, 2013
Manchester City 6-0 Tottenham: Spurs’ centre-backs constantly exposed as City run riot

Manchester City continued their superb home form with a crushing victory over Tottenham.

Manuel Pellegrini fielded his expected line-up – Martin Demichelis continued at the back, in the absence of Vincent Kompany.

Andre Villas-Boas used Erik Lamela from the start for the first time in the Premier League, and played Aaron Lennon over Andros Townsend. He also used Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul together at the back, for the first time in the league.

City went ahead within 15 seconds and were completely dominant throughout the game. Read more »

Everton 3-3 Liverpool: amazingly open game, and goals from set-pieces

November 24, 2013
Everton 3-3 Liverpool: amazingly open game, and goals from set-pieces

Positive tactics and awful defending combined to create a goalfest at Goodison Park.

This is Roberto Martinez’s first-choice XI at the moment, with Leon Osman only on the bench.

Brendan Rodgers switched to a cautious 4-3-3 system, with doubts over Daniel Sturridge’s fitness meaning Luis Suarez played alone upfront. Joe Allen came into the midfield, with Jordan Henderson moving right. Jon Flanagan made a rare start at left-back.

This was quite a contest – and while the defending was often terrible, there were also some interesting tactical decisions from both coaches.

Read more »

Sweden 2-3 Portugal: Ibrahimovic 2-3 Ronaldo

November 22, 2013
Sweden 2-3 Portugal: Ibrahimovic 2-3 Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo produced an extraordinary performance to win this play-off almost single-handedly.

Erik Hamren named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, which finished in a 1-0 Portugal victory.

Paolo Bento’s side had one change – Hugo Almeida had made the difference in the first leg as a substitute, so replaced Helder Postiga upfront

It’s difficult to remember a contest that had been promoted  so much beforehand as, essentially, an individual battle between two players. Football isn’t an individual sport, of course, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo lived up to the pre-match hype, and completely dominated their sides. Read more »

Ukraine 2-0 France: France lack creativity with the ball, and lack structure without it

November 18, 2013
Ukraine 2-0 France: France lack creativity with the ball, and lack structure without it

Ukraine are halfway to the World Cup, after a surprise 2-0 victory over France.

Mykhaylo Fomenko’s XI was fairly typical of his recent line-ups, although Roman Zozulya hasn’t always played upfront, and Edmar was fielded in an advanced role.

Didier Deschamps left out Mathieu Valbuena and played Samir Nasri instead, with Olivier Giroud favoured over Karim Benzema upfront.

This match was played at a high intensity and was dramatic throughout – France dominated possession but lacked organisation. Read more »

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal: United start positively then defend extremely narrow

November 13, 2013
Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal: United start positively then defend extremely narrow

David Moyes recorded the first major victory of his tenure at Old Trafford.

Moyes selected Phil Jones in the centre of midfield alongside Michael Carrick, and continued with Shinji Kagawa on the left.

Arsene Wenger was without Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky due to flu, so Thomas Vermaelen came into the side and Aaron Ramsey moved right.

This was a very narrow United victory, in a match where neither side played at their best. Read more »

Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal: Dortmund on top for an hour, but Arsenal excellent after scoring

November 7, 2013
Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal: Dortmund on top for an hour, but Arsenal excellent after scoring

Dortmund had significantly more shots, but Arsenal snatched a winner and saw out the game efficiently.

Jurgen Klopp was without Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan, so named an unchanged side.

Arsene Wenger didn’t have anyone back from injury, so kept the same side that defeated Liverpool.

This game was simultaneously high-tempo and slow-burning – an uneventful first half was followed by a very exciting second. Read more »

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Arsenal adapt well to Rodgers’ tactical decisions

November 4, 2013
Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Arsenal adapt well to Rodgers’ tactical decisions

Arsenal triumphed in a fast-paced and tactically interesting contest.

With Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini out, Arsene Wenger had no real selection dilemmas.

Brendan Rodgers continued with his 3-5-2 system, although was without both first-choice wing-backs, with Glen Johnson a late withdrawal – Jon Flanagan played instead.

Arsenal were the better side – just about keeping Liverpool’s front two quiet, and dominating both centrally and down the flanks in possession.

Read more »