Dortmund 3-2 Malaga: Pellegrini’s side defend well, but are unable to cope with late pressure

April 10, 2013
Dortmund 3-2 Malaga: Pellegrini’s side defend well, but are unable to cope with late pressure

An astonishing stoppage time turnaround means Dortmund to progress to the semi-finals.

Jurgen Klopp used Jakub Blaszczykowski as his winger, rather than left-sided Kevin Grosskreutz, so Marco Reus started from the left. Sven Bender returned, but Mats Hummels was only on the bench.

With a couple of suspensions to cope with, Manuel Pellegrini brought in Sergio Sanchez and Ignacio Camacho. He pushed Julio Baptista upfront, dropping Javier Saviola, with Duda coming into the side.

Malaga coped well for most of the game – and two goals should have been enough to see them through. Read more »

Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City: City’s attackers combine well throughout

April 8, 2013
Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City: City’s attackers combine well throughout

Manchester City produced a fine performance to record a rare victory at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson played two attack-minded wide players, with Ryan Giggs in the centre and Tom Cleverley only on the bench. Phil Jones continued alongside Rio Ferdinand in the centre of defence.

Roberto Mancini left out Sergio Aguero, favouring Carlos Tevez as a lone striker with David Silva just behind.

City were significantly better here – they dominated the first half, took the lead in the second, and Mancini used his bench better too. Read more »

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 »

Uruguay 1-1 Paraguay: Tabarez ditches his double pivot, then makes more attacking moves

March 25, 2013
Uruguay 1-1 Paraguay: Tabarez ditches his double pivot, then makes more attacking moves

Reigning South American champions Uruguay recorded their third consecutive 1-1 home draw – their participation in Brazil remains in the balance.

Oscar Tabarez fielded a familiar core to this side – Edinson Cavani was only on the bench, with Diego Forlan behind Luis Suarez upfront, the combination that won Uruguay the Copa America final against Paraguay in 2011. The major news was in the centre of midfield, where Tabarez played Nicolas Lodeiro rather than a second defensive midfielder.

Uruguyan-born Gerard Pelusso selected a cautious 4-4-2 formation for bottom-placed Paraguay, having experimented with 4-3-3 earlier in the qualification process. Oscar Cardozo and Nelson Valdez were together upfront, while Ricard Ortiz pushed forward to the left of midfield.

This game started slowly before gradually developing into something quite interesting – mainly because of Tabarez’s constant chances. Read more »

Croatia 2-0 Serbia: brave decision to use Kovacic in midfield helps Croatia dominate the game

March 24, 2013
Croatia 2-0 Serbia: brave decision to use Kovacic in midfield helps Croatia dominate the game

Croatia’s two strikers – Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic – scored a goal apiece before half-time, to win an incredibly hotly-anticipated derby.

Igor Stimac’s major decision was the surprise selection of 18-year-old Mateo Kovacic for his international debut in the centre of midfield.

Sinisa Mihajlovic used Ivan Radovanovic as a holder, and Alen Stevanovic rather than Dusan Tadic on the left. Marko Scepovic played upfront, although he lasted less than ten minutes.

Why Croatia v Serbia? Well, for both political and football reasons, this was an absolutely huge fixture – especially the meeting between fierce rivals Stimac and Mihajlovic. For the incredible background to the story, read this excellent summary – with that in mind, the main feature of the match was its surprisingly sporting nature. Read more »

Malaga 2-0 Porto: Malaga profit from balls over the top, and Defour’s red card

March 13, 2013
Malaga 2-0 Porto: Malaga profit from balls over the top, and Defour’s red card

Malaga overcame a 1-0 first leg deficit to book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

From the first leg, Manuel Pellegrini made two changes – Jesus Gamez played rather than Sergio Sanchez at right-back, while Javier Saviola started upfront in place of Roque Santa Cruz.

Vitor Pereira made one change from the first leg, with Steven Defour replacing Marat Izmailov on the left.

This was a bitty, scrappy game featuring eight bookings – one of which was a second yellow, and the end of Defour’s night. Malaga started slowly, but eventually played better football. Read more »

Schalke 2-3 Galatasaray: Terim switches to a diamond but deals with Schalke width

March 13, 2013
Schalke 2-3 Galatasaray: Terim switches to a diamond but deals with Schalke width

Galatasaray recorded a surprise win and progressed 4-3 on aggregate.

Jens Keller was without Klaas-Jan Huntelaar following the injury he sustained against Dortmund, so Teemu Pukki played alone upfront. Otherwise, Schalke were unchanged.

Fatih Terim made one change from the first leg – Emmanuel Eboue replaced Sabri Sarioglu at right-back.

This was an even contest, and would have finished in a draw had Schalke not needed to push forward seeking the fitfh goal of the game – but Galatasaray started as underdogs, so it’s fair to give Terim great credit for his tactics. Read more »

Barcelona 4-0 Milan: Villa plays centrally and allows Messi space between the lines

March 13, 2013
Barcelona 4-0 Milan: Villa plays centrally and allows Messi space between the lines

Barcelona recovered from a 2-0 first leg defeat.

Jordi Roura (perhaps with help from Tito Vilanova) used David Villa upfront, with Cesc Fabregas on the bench, and played Javier Mascherano rather than Carles Puyol.

Max Allegri kept things close to the first leg XI – Mathieu Flamini replaced Sulley Muntari, with Riccardo Montolivo moving to the left of the midfield trio. Upfront, with Giampaolo Pazzini injured, M’Baye Niang played upfront.

Barcelona were excellent in the first half here – and although the home side’s strategy was slightly confused after the third goal which had tipped the balance of the tie, Milan didn’t have an answer for their unusual system. Read more »

Schalke 2-1 Dortmund: squeezed game allows full-backs forward on the overlap

March 12, 2013
Schalke 2-1 Dortmund: squeezed game allows full-backs forward on the overlap

Schalke won the Revierderby with an excellent first-half display.

Atsuto Uchida came back into Jens Keller’s side, with Marco Hoger moving forward into midfield in place of Jermaine Jones.

Jurgen Klopp recalled Mats Hummels – although he didn’t seem 100% fit and only lasted half the game. Klopp left out Marco Reus, presumably because of rotation after a busy couple of weeks for Dortmund.

This game was amazingly attack-minded in the opening stages, and almost solely about the flanks, with all four full-backs playing attack-minded roles. Read more »

Lazio 0-2 Fiorentina: Ledesma shows how not to play the holding midfield role – again

March 11, 2013
Lazio 0-2 Fiorentina: Ledesma shows how not to play the holding midfield role – again

A familiar, assured passing performance from Fiorentina – but a rare away victory. They leapfrog Lazio into fourth.

Vladimir Petkovic was without right-winger Antonio Candreva after his red card against Milan last week, so moved Alvaro Gonzales to the flank and used Ederson in the middle. Lorik Cana started at the back, in place of Giuseppe Biava.

Vincenzo Montella selected his 4-3-3 formation. Alberto Aquilani was unavailable in the centre of the pitch, so Giulio Migliaccio started in his position, while Nenad Tomovic played at right-back.

Fiorentina were clinical here – dominating the opening period with clever passing triangles, then playing possession football in the second half to seal a relatively comfortable victory. Read more »

Lyon 0-0 Marseille: A bad reflection of Ligue 1, and a bad result for Ligue 1

March 11, 2013
Lyon 0-0 Marseille: A bad reflection of Ligue 1, and a bad result for Ligue 1

PSG were the real winners, as 2nd versus 3rd played out a boring goalless draw.

Remi Garde was without Anthony Reveillere, so Mohamadou Dabo played at right-back, with Samuel Umtiti on the left. Clement Grenier dropped to the bench, with the more defensive-minded Gueida Fofana starting instead.

Elie Baup was without Morgan Amalfitano, so used the pacey Modou Sougou in his place. Otherwise, his side was as expected.

This was desperately poor – two negative sides apparently content to play out a goalless draw, in a match featuring just three shots on target. Read more »

Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea: United storm into an early lead, then Chelsea dominate

March 11, 2013
Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea: United storm into an early lead, then Chelsea dominate

Manchester United appeared firmly in control for 20 minutes, but substitutions helped Chelsea get back into the game.

Sir Alex Ferguson recalled Wayne Rooney, using him behind Javier Hernandez, with Shinji Kagawa left and Nani right. Jonny Evans also returned.

Rafael Benitez surprisingly named Ramires and Frank Lampard in midfield, allowing him to play three attackers, including Victor Moses, behind Demba Ba. Cesar Azpilicueta was at right-back.

United took an early lead with goals from Hernandez and Rooney, but then seemed to stop playing – and Chelsea could have won it late on. Read more »

Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar: Dortmund exploit Shakhtar’s poor positional play

March 6, 2013
Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar: Dortmund exploit Shakhtar’s poor positional play

After a 2-2 first leg draw, Dortmund performed excellently to qualify for the quarter-finals with surprising ease.

Jurgen Klopp was still without Mats Hummels, so Felipe Santana and Neven Subotic continued at the back. Otherwise, the side was as expected, and played in the traditional 4-2-3-1, rather than the 4-3-3 we saw against Bayern last week.

Mircea Lucescu named Taison on the left wing. Douglas Costa was only on the bench.

In a game between two similar sides, Dortmund were better in almost every department, dragging Shakhtar out of shape and exploiting the spaces in behind. Read more »

Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid: red card allows Real to take control

March 6, 2013
Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid: red card allows Real to take control

Manchester United’s starting strategy nullified Real Madrid’s main threats, but Jose Mourinho reacted quickly after United went down to ten.

Sir Alex Ferguson left out Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa, favouring Nani and Ryan Giggs on the flanks. Tom Cleverley started in place of Phil Jones, while Jonny Evans dropped to the bench as Ferguson favoured the old-school Ferdinand-Vidic partnership.

Jose Mourinho named his expected side. Gonzalo Higuain was upfront rather than Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane continued at centre-back.

Sadly, we were denied a chance to see how the 11 v 11 game would play out – Real had looked impotent until Nani’s red card, and it would have been fascinating to see how they tried to break down United in the final half hour. Read more »

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal: high lines and balls in behind the defences

March 4, 2013
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal: high lines and balls in behind the defences

Tottenham recorded an important victory over their North London rivals, thanks to two identical goals towards the end of the first half.

Andre Villas-Boas used Gylfi Sigurdsson rather than Lewis Holtby, while Jermain Defoe was fit enough for the bench.

Arsene Wenger used Santi Cazorla on the flank rather than in the middle, which meant Aaron Ramsey played in midfield, and Lukas Podolski was on the bench.

Arsenal actually started strongly and dominated possession for long periods, but as Wenger acknowledged after the game, Spurs were more efficient in the areas that mattered. Read more »

Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: Mourinho rests multiple players but replicates midweek strategy

March 3, 2013
Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: Mourinho rests multiple players but replicates midweek strategy

Sergio Ramos nodded in a late winner, as Real beat Barca for the second time in a week.

Jose Mourinho rested his entire midfield and attack ahead of the game against Manchester United, and reshuffled in defence, too.

Jordi Roura was without Xavi Hernandez so played Thiago Alcantara. He played Javier Mascherano instead of Carles Puyol, and David Villa rather than Cesc Fabregas.

This was the sixth Clasico of the season and the third in the last five weeks. On the basis that (1) This wasn’t a particularly important game for Real and (2) A usual tactical review would go over a lot of old ground, here are ten bitesize points. Read more »

Napoli 1-1 Juventus: Juve hold on

March 2, 2013
Napoli 1-1 Juventus: Juve hold on

Second-placed Napoli performed well after the break, but a draw puts Juve in a great position to retain their title.

Walter Mazzarri continued with Miguel Britos on the left of his back three, and favoured the experience of Goran Pandev rather than Lorenzo Insigne’s directness.

Antonio Conte selected Federico Peluso as his left-wing-back rather than Kwadwo Asamoah, while Giorgio Chiellini was fit to return just behind him. Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic continued upfront.

Juventus looked stronger in the first half, before Mazzarri’s half-time switch changed the pattern of the game in the second period. Read more »

Bayern 1-0 Dortmund: Bayern dominate

February 27, 2013
Bayern 1-0 Dortmund: Bayern dominate

Arjen Robben’s superb goal won the game, but Bayern’s nine shots on target to Dortmund’s one demonstrates the home side’s overall dominance.

Jupp Heynckes used the XI that triumphed over Arsenal last week, with one exception – Franck Ribery was out, so Robben started on the left. Daniel van Buyten was alongside Dante again.

Jurgen Klopp was unable to call upon Mats Hummels, so Felipe Santana played alongside Neven Subotic. Kevin Grosskreutz got a start in midfield.

This wasn’t a fascinating tactical battle, but Bayern were by far the better side – pressing well, mixing short intricate passing with longer balls, and featuring good variety and movement in the centre of midfield. Read more »

Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid: Real comfortable defensively and ruthless on the break

February 27, 2013
Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid: Real comfortable defensively and ruthless on the break

Barcelona suffered their second major defeat within the space of a week, and Real are through to the Copa del Rey final.

Jordi Roura brought in Jose Pinto for Victor Valdes in goal – as always in this competition. The rest of the side was the same as against Milan with both Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta in the side, despite David Villa’s impact against Sevilla at the weekend.

Jose Mourinho chose Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos at centre-back, with Pepe on the bench. Gonzalo Higuain, as expected, started upfront.

Real outplayed Barcelona. Their defensive shape was good, their breaks were typically direct and efficient. 3-1 didn’t flatter them. Read more »

PSG 2-0 Marseille: PSG attack at speed, but fortunate to keep a clean sheet

February 25, 2013
PSG 2-0 Marseille: PSG attack at speed, but fortunate to keep a clean sheet

A closer game than the scoreline suggests.

With injury problems in defence, Carlo Ancelotti named Sylvain Armand as his left-sided centre-back. David Beckham was on the bench.

Élie Baup named an unchanged side from the XI that triumphed over Valenciennes last week.

PSG’s four outright attackers combined effectively at times, but Marseille will feel they had enough chances to get something from the game. Read more »

Inter 1-1 Milan: Milan should have been out of sight by half-time

February 25, 2013
Inter 1-1 Milan: Milan should have been out of sight by half-time

Inter upped their performance after a terrible first-half display.

Andrea Stramaccioni gave a rare start to Ricky Alvarez on the left, after his impressive performance against Cluj in midweek. Diego Milito is out for the season, so Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Palacio started upfront together.

Max Allegri made changes from the victory over Barcelona – Mario Balotelli, cup-tied in Europe, returned in place of Giampaolo Pazzini, while Riccardo Montolivo played in Massimo Ambrosini’s deep-lying role to allow Antonio Nocerino to play.

Stramaccioni managed to alter things to get his side back into the game, but only Milan profligacy and another fine Samir Handanovic performance prevented the ‘away’ side from victory. Read more »

Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea: Chelsea stay deep, narrow and compact but City find a way through

February 25, 2013
Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea: Chelsea stay deep, narrow and compact but City find a way through

Chelsea played negatively, and afforded City too many goalscoring opportunities.

Roberto Mancini surprisingly played Yaya Toure behind Sergio Aguero, a combination he’s rarely used this season. Jack Rodwell started alongside Javi Garcia, while Vincent Kompany wasn’t fit, so Kolo Toure started at the back.

Rafael Benitez used Demba Ba instead of Fernando Torres. John Terry was on the bench, as were Cesar Azpilicueta and Oscar, with Branislav Ivanovic used at right-back and Ramires on the right of midfield.

City dominated the first half but broke through in the second, after Mancini turned to his bench. Read more »