Porto 3-1 Bayern: Porto press effectively

April 17, 2015
Porto 3-1 Bayern: Porto press effectively

Porto recorded a hugely impressive victory, largely thanks to their intense pressing in the opening stages, which put them into an early two-goal lead.

Porto selection

Julen Lopetegui was still without forward Cristian Tello, who had scored five goals in four games before suffering a thigh injury.

The good news, however, was that captain and centre-forward Jackson Martinez was fit again to lead the line, despite initial fears he wouldn’t even make the second leg. The rest of the side was as expected.

Bayern selection

Pep Guardiola was without his two wing wizards, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, which meant Bayern were forced to play in a somewhat narrow system which was roughly 4-3-2-1.

David Alaba, Mehdi Benatia and Bastian Schweinsteiger were also missing, which meant that while Guardiola was still able to call upon a solid group of players, he didn’t have many tactical options or alternatives from the bench after half-time.

Match summary

Porto played this very impressively, pressing intensely in phases to win the ball in dangerous positions, before gradually sitting deeper and remaining compact.

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Marseille 2-3 PSG: Bielsa’s pressing has positives and negatives

April 8, 2015
Marseille 2-3 PSG: Bielsa’s pressing has positives and negatives

Paris Saint-German attacked directly and created lots of chances against a ludicrously proactive Marseille side who pressed extremely intensely until they tired.

PSG maintain their position at the top, with Marseille in third, behind Lyon.

Marseille selection

Marcelo Bielsa was without suspended defensive midfielder Giannelli Imbula, so Mario Lemina came into the side.

Jeremy Morel returned on the left of the defence, and otherwise the side was unchanged.

PSG selection

There were few surprises from Laurent Blanc. Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani got the nod over Ezequiel Lavezzi out wide.

Blanc had a problem at the back, however, when David Luiz limped off midway through the first half with a hamstring injury. Gregory van der Wiel replaced him and played right-back, with Marquinhos pushing inside into the middle.

Match summary

Big Ligue 1 games are often somewhat dull, but this was an extremely enjoyable, high-tempo game – largely because of Marseille’s pressing.

This had benefits and drawbacks, however, illustrated by the chances at both ends.

YouTube highlights here.

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Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: both sides threaten but Barca superior at finishing

March 25, 2015
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: both sides threaten but Barca superior at finishing

Barcelona moved four points ¬†clear at the top of La Liga thanks to Luis Suarez’s winner.

Barcelona selection

Sergio Busquets was only fit enough for the bench, so Javier Mascherano played in the holding role, with Jeremy Mathieu the left-sided centre-back.

Otherwise, the team was as expected. Xavi Hernandez had surprisingly started over Ivan Rakitic in the reverse fixture, but Luis Enrique didn’t replicate that error, so we had the unusual sight of Barcelona without either Busquets or Xavi, the two players who usually control this game.

Real Madrid

Real were also as expected. James Rodriguez is still out, although Luka Modric has regained full fitness and continued in midfield alongside Isco.

Toni Kroos was recalled by Carlo Ancelotti, having been rested for the first time this season the previous weekend.

Match summary

The sides were evenly matched here. Both teams had good spells but this game wasn’t decided one particular zone, or because either side did much better than their opponents – aside from finishing. Read more »

Dortmund 0-3 Juventus: deep defending and quick countering

March 19, 2015
Dortmund 0-3 Juventus: deep defending and quick countering

Juventus produced a classic away performance to win this tie comfortably.

Dortmund selection

Jurgen Klopp named his default 4-2-3-1 formation. Kevin Kampl made his Champions League debut on the right, with Henrikh Mikhitaryan on the left flank – neither are natural wingers, and both prefer to drift inside.

Soktatis Papastathopoulos started at right-back, with Lukas Piszczek still out following the injury he collected in the first leg.

Juventus selection

Max Allegri initially fielded a diamond midfield system, although the early injury to Paul Pogba – when Juve were already 1-0 up – meant a switch to 5-3-2, with Andrea Barzagli replacing him, and Roberto Pereyra dropping back from the top of the diamond into Pogba’s left-of-centre role.

Andrea Pirlo was already out injured, although this probably wasn’t a significant blow against Dortmund’s intense pressing – he can struggle in that environment, and Claudio Marchisio has shown an ability to play the Pirlo role effectively.

Match summary

Juventus took the lead early and then produced a stereotypically solid Italian defensive performance, barely pressing in the final third and instead concentrating on clearing from the edge of their own penalty box. Their counter-attacking, meanwhile, was incredibly basic but also extremely effective. Read more »