After a 4-0 rout at the feet of Paris Saint Germain earlier this week in the first leg of the Champions League, Barcelona was expected to erupt as their superstars were looking to expose 17th-placed Leganes.
The final score was 2-1, so it goes without saying that this game was much closer than it could have been. In fact, it took a 90th-minute penalty to grab all three points. The scorer of both goals was none other than Lionel Messi.
The passing, movement, possession, creation and overall push was all there, but the usual fright-factor that Barcelona possesses was nowhere to be found.
After the 4-0 drubbing they took in Paris last week, perhaps Leganes were not afraid to attack inside the Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona.
Looking at the stats according to Livescore.com, Leganes recorded six shots on frame and four off, just like their hosts. Barcelona dominated possession with 67%.
This goes to prove that containing possession of the ball is not always the answer. If you are going to possess the ball, make it useful: push up the field and pass the ball with meaning to try and create chances to score. If there is a healthy lead, keep possession to defend and disallow the opponent from scoring.
This is simple stuff and Barcelona are usually good at it. But lately, this has not been the case.
The 4-3-3 has been good to Barcelona ever since the late 2000’s. The formation relies on passing, skills, the interchanging of positions and spreading the field.
However, after many years of playing in this system, a breath of fresh air is needed.
Having Neymar on the left, Luis Suarez down the middle and Leo Messi on the right as a front three is virtually unstoppable. It has worked wonders in the last couple of seasons, but evidently the effectiveness has dropped significantly.
The 4-2-3-1 could do wonders for this club.
4-2-3-1: Ter Steigen (GK); Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba (right to left back); Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets (CDM); Neymar, Denis Suarez, Leo Messi (left to right mid)’ Luis Suarez (striker).’
The ability to possess the ball, spread the ball wide and play closely to one another can allow them to use their skills more often.
When Arda Turan had began playing for Barcelona back in January of 2016, Luis Enrique had put the team out in the 4-2-3-1 and they won by a score of 2-1.
This formation allows the team to play a bit more defensively and can be much more lethal on the counter. Wide midfielders, a central-attacking mid and a striker is more than enough to create an attack.
The full backs push up the field leaving the two center backs to keep away danger. The two central defensive midfielders play in front of the defense and push up to boost the attack.
The intelligence level of the Barca players as well as the patience they have when passing has been proven for the past eight-nine years. A switch to a different formation should not be too difficult.
If they want to keep Leo Messi and others happy by returning to winning ways, this needs to be done.
RFKStadium, Washington DC – The United States Men’s National Team hosted New Zealand in their final friendly before their Hexagonal matchup with Mexico.
Julian Green scored the opening goal inside the first 27 minutes after cutting towards the 18 before firing inside the near post.
New Zealand answered in the 72nd minute as Monty Patterson slammed home the loose ball after a corner.
With both nations creating some decent chances, one goal each was all that they could conjure up.
The US played in a 4-3-3 setup as JurgenKlinsmann looked to play possession and to also hit on the counter.
Matt Besler partnered up with Omar Gonzalez (like old times) at center-back, Michael Orozco played on the right and Kellyn Acosta occupied the left.
The midfield three was comprised of captain Michael Bradley, Perry Kitchen and Sacha Kljestan. Bradley dictated the midfield as usual whereas Kitchen struggled the most out of the three-man midfield. Kljestan was on a different level for someone who hadn’t been with the team regularly.
“He is absolutely under consideration (to be on the field against Mexico next month), Klinsmann replied to the question. “He took his opportunity in just the perfect way, you know. He was hungry for that moment (as) he knew he had to come in here and make a difference.”
With that said, against Mexico, Klinsmann could very well partner Bradley up with Kljestan as the holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-4-2. Today’s 4-3-3 with this lineup did not gel too well. Therefore, against a top Mexican side who can press, pass and attack for days, the US will most likely look to possess and hit harder on the fly.
Goalscorer Green played down the left, Jozy Altidore as the striker and DeAndre Yedlin played up the right flank. Altidore help play up well, but his final pass and touch were nowhere near his capability.
When asked about the experiment with Yedlin in the front line instead of right-back, coach Klinsman stated, “In the last game and in this game he struggled… he struggled and that is just (the) reality.”
This could very well mean that Yedlin sits out the game in Columbus, Ohio next month against Mexico… or he may even be cut from the team altogether. His speed, skill and ability to pressure are all vital for the team, but if he cannot perform in two rather simpler friendlies, should he be expected to against Mexico?
No. Not at all. Klinsmann will perhaps give him a break next month to snap back into his rhythm.
The passing, creativity, and movement were all there for the home side, but succeeding more than once in the final third proved all too difficult.
On November 11, the US will host Mexico in the same venue where “Dos a Cero” (2-0) became famous. This time around, the US is obviously expected to repeat that scoreline again. Mexico on the other hand will have different plans.
They can play in a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or a 5-3-2 where either one of these setups will allow them to play their passing and pressing game. They will be fearless against a US side that honestly has looked quite shaky in these recent two friendlies.
If the US wants to defeat Mexico, they need to field their best lineup in the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-4-2. The 4-3-3 will be a bit too open against a team that can outclass them if they choose that formation.
Klinsmann had some positives last night, but the negatives were a bit too obvious. On to the Hex.
Courtesy of the official Turkish National Soccer Twitter Account (@millitakimlar)
Earlier today we witnessed Turkey play without any meaning or defiance against an Iceland side that did wonders in EURO 2016. This was a World Cup Qualifier and only the home side put in one of their best efforts.
First off, coach Fatih Terim needs to a wake-up call as soon as possible. He is the highest-paid international coach, making over $3 Million per year. For a guy that does nothing but motivate players, pick and choose as he pleases regardless of what is needed and acts like terrible results don’t matter, it is needless to say that he is undeserving of that wage.
One of Barcelona’s decent midfielders in ArdaTuran has not been called up for a single qualifier (three so far) due to an issue the coach had with him during EURO 2016. Turan has been the team captain for recent years and Terim let his ego get the best of him. The result? Recently poor performances.
In addition to Turan, notable veterans such as Selcuk Inan and Burak Yilmaz were also absent. Inan scored the free-kick last year that sent Turkey to the EURO’s, ironically against Iceland in Konya, Turkey. Yilmaz scored against the Czech Republic in a 2-0 victory in Turkey’s final group game last summer.
With that said, lets take a look at the mistakes Mr. Terim made.
Mehmet Topal played center-back (while he is normally a central defensive midfielder) and Kaan Ayhan (a center-back) played in the holding midfield role.
Yes, Topal has played in this position before, but only when it was absolutely necessary. Yesterday in Iceland, it was nowhere near that drastic.
He is to blame for the second goal as he failed to close down Alfred Finnbogason before he rocketed a shot into the to corner, doubling his country’s lead.
Ayhan wasn’t the worst, but it was certainly obvious he did not belong in midfield. Topal can distribute and hold down in a midfield role whereas Ayhan stayed in front of the back line a bit too much. he had his passes, headers and tackles here and there, but he was nowhere near as effective in midfield.
One player who has recently captained Bayer Leverkusen as a starting center-back — Omer Toprak — was somewhat awful. He was to blame for at least one of the goals against Ukraine and he somehow deflected a shot (with his face) from 10 yards out past his own keeper.
It was obvious the man was uncomfortable and yet Terim stuck by him based on his recent performances in the Bundesliga.
Terim utilized a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 holding as the players were all over the field. The method of attack was to pass inside their own half then send long-balls down the right or left. On the right, Yasin Oztekin would receive possession, get double-teamed then lose the ball. On the left, Volkan Sen would dance around one maybe two guys then somehow fail to find a teammate.
It gets better.
Young 19-year-old sensation, Emre Mor, is a winger that is on the rise at Borussia Dortmund. Instead of allowing him to play on the right where he is most comfortable, Terim asked him to play alone up top.
That makes no sense.
The kid has proven himself on the wings and Terim — knowing that he has three strikers on the bench — put Mor up top because he did not want to bench the teenager. If that is the case, bench Oztekin, start Mor on the right and Cenk Tosun up top. Simple.
Iceland played in their trusty 4-4-2 flat and made life ever so difficult for Turkey. Players like Finnbogason, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Birkir Bjarnason gelled and played the passing, countering and simplicity game to near-perfection.
The saddening fact is this: Turkey allowed Iceland to play their game on their home ground as if they needed the help. Terim is on control of this team and it truly showed yesterday. He is a coach that solely relies on motivation, but they did not even have that.
Terim used to know how to get the best out of his players.After cutting their longtime captain, one of their best strikers and the man who took them to EURO 2016, the other players are weary of what can happen if they speak their mind or act up… even once.
Coach Terim is… no… was a good coach. Now, unless he shapes up and gets back to normal by stepping off of his high horse, this team will be nowhere near good enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Liverpool defeated Villarreal 3-1 on aggregate in their EuropaLeague semifinal to set up a date with the defending champion, Sevilla.
The Spanish side won the title a total of four times, 2006, 2007, 2014 and 2015. They defended their title twice. Now, they look to defend it twice in a row, becoming the first side to win it three seasons running. They are already the most successful club in the competition, but completing this feat will put them miles ahead.
The appointment of Jurgen Klopp has instilled a new spirit of fight, dedication, belief, desire and professionalism into the Liverpool roster. He has a way of bringing out the very best in his squad and it has shown tremendously.
Their best accomplishment to date in the Europa League was bouncing back from an early second-half deficit of 3-1 against Borussia Dortmund to win 4-3. That brought them to the semifinal where they once again finished the job on home soil. That type of belief and fight is what carries this team to these relocated heights.
Liverpool won the UEFA Cup three times before and will look to make it their first Europa League (new name for the tournament) to make it a total of four titles, matching Sevilla. They most recently won back in 2001 before playing two Champions League finals in 2005 and 2007. Both games were played against AC Milan against whom they won the first one in stunning comeback fashion before being shut out in 2007.
With their 4-2-3-1 formation, the team is lethal on the counter, possession and chance-creation. Every single field-player is in sync with one another as they each take their responsibilities head on. The players work for the team and it truly shows.
One player who arrived as recently as last summer and already captains the team is JamesMilner. When it comes to hard work, the 30-year-old English international is by far the hardest-working. If it wasn’t impressive enough that he gets quite a few assists, the fact that he covers most ground to fill in gaps and make sure every teammate is completing their job nearly to perfection. He never complains – just does what he is supposed to as captain: lead the team by working the hardest.
Under Klopp, his performance has picked up even more (as if it really had to).
Sevilla is a worthy Europa League champion, but Liverpool has it all to prove this season as they are looking to win their first title since 2005.
AtleticoMadrid made the 2014 UEFA ChampionsLeague final and lost to Real Madrid by the score of 4-1. Two season later they are right back in the final after defeating BayernMunich on the away-goal rule in the semifinals.
Antoine Griezmann hit home to respond to XabiAlonso‘s opening free-kick to end the first half at one apiece. Robert Lewandowski scored the game-winner inside the final 16 minutes, but it was insufficient as Atletico won the opening game 1-0 thanks to Saul Niguez‘s wonder-strike.
Thomas Muller had his first-half penalty thwarted away by keeper Jan Oblak before Fernando Torres was robbed by Manuel Neuer from the spot in the second half.
Bayern Munich played in a 4-1-4-1 before switching at times to the more traditional 4-2-3-1. Creating chances was easy for the German champions, but finishing them against a sturdy Atletico defense and goal keeper proved to be too tough in the end.
Pep Guardiola has now lost in three straight semifinals as coach of Bayern Munich. Ironically, they were all against teams from his nation of Spain: Real Madrid 2014, Barcelona (2015) and now Atletico Madrid (2016). Real and Barca went on to win the title in their respective years, now Atletico can make it a three-peat of teams winning the title after eliminating Bayern in the semis.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone has masterminded his tactical approach to every game his team has played. Sure they lost today, but only on the scoreboard as the one-goal loss was sufficient enough for their place in the final. The coach believes in the 4-4-2 flat with everyone working together on every single play – both defensively and offensively.
One player that truly completed the puzzle this season was FilipeLuis. The Brazilian left back played for Atletico in the 2014 final before playing abroad for Chelsea last season. After his failure to impress and play regular soccer in the EPL, Luis returned home to pick right up where he left off. Along with Gabi Fernandez, Juanfran Torres and Diego Godin, Luis is definitely considered one of the hardest-working veterans of this club.
Two seasons ago, Atletico led 1-0 against Real Madrid all the way into injury-time before Sergio Ramos headed home the equalizer, only disheartening the brave effort by the red and whites that caused them to lose 4-1 after Extra Time.
Since then, Atletico have not lost to Real in La Liga or Copa del Rey action, but did lose 1-0 on aggregate in the UCL quarters last season. Therefore, Real does have the upper hand in Europe, but this will be the final… with revenge on the minds of the losing side in 2014.
After Real Madrid defeated Manchester City in yesterday’s second leg of their respective semifinal, the rematch has been finalized. Come May Saturday May 28, 2016, Atletico Madrid will have their chance at winning the Champions League against the team that took that chance away from them two seasons ago. Along with 2014’s, this is the biggest Madrid derby taking place at the highest stage possible for either side. Whoever wins will become kings of Europe’s top competition.
The odds were at 5000/1 while most experts predicted them to be relegated a season after they had a late surge if you will to stay in the PremierLeague. Did that stop or taint their path towards the unexpected top? Not a chance. Especially with Claudio Ranieri at the helm, guiding the club from the East Midlands to the 2015-2016 Premier League (EPL) title. Your champions: LeicesterCity.
Wining seemed impossible, but the players, coaching, fans and an overall determination led them here. Lets take a closer look at the stars who made it happen.
RiyadMahrez has scored 17 goals and added 11 assists in 35 games as the starting right midfielder was the prestigious EPL Player of the Year award. In doing so he became the first African player to ever do so.
Jamie Vardy scored 22 goals and added six assists in 34 games. As one of the two strikers in almost every starting XI this season, Vardy at times created something out of nothing while finishing what teammates’ started at others. At the age of 29, he is truly making a name for himself, which proves that late bloomers definitely do indeed exist.
A man that arrived in the summer from Ligue 1 to play in the heart of midfield also made a difference. N’GoloKante is like a clean pitbull if you will as his intentions on the field are strictly professional. Whether he is breaking up plays with interceptions, tackling opponents or finding teammates in the final third for a quick counter or build-up, this young man has done it all in his position.
Now for the center-backs who have stood tall and firm in the heart of defense while also scoring some crucial goals at the other end. Robert Huth scored a brace in their 3-1 win at Manchester City while captain WesMorgan recently scored the equalizer at Manchester United in their 1-1 draw. Both have played very well throughout and are responsible for helping goal keeper KasperSchmeichel protect his goal.
The ownership and staff worked very hard to bring this team to where they are today, but the man in charge on the field is truly a huge part of this successful run: coach Ranieri.
The Italian was replaced by Jose Mourinho back in 2004 at Chelsea because he was deemed unable to bring success to that club. He was fired from Greece a year-and-a-half ago as they were playing too poorly in EURO 2016 qualifying, even losing to the Faroe Islands. The man himself claimed that he si still that same man today, but can all beg to differ.
Ranieri has his club play in a traditional 4-4-2 flat formation which is tactically quite simple, but there is more to it than that. The center backs control the back line and push up on set plays only. The fullbacks control the flanks and almost always push up for every offensive play, especially on the counters to make matters easier and more efficient.
The middle four can be seen as a midfield-wall if you will as their job is to make it harder to get to the final third by breaking up passes and pressing relentlessly. All four pull back to help the defense when the opponents rush up field with numbers.
The two strikers are responsible for helping one another and their team in scoring. At times, they even pull back to help the tiring midfield and defense to fill in open gaps.
Ranieri lets his boys play as they are all willing to play selflessly and clearly it showed this season. With two games to spare, they have become champions and deservedly so.
Most people including the coach think that this was a one-time feat that most likely will never occur again. However, with some new reinforcements like to join them due to their guaranteed Champions League group spot, anything is possible. Discipline, belief, determination and hunger got them this far, which can mean that climbing up the latter even further is possible.
ManchesterCity made some noise today by publicly announcing that Pep Guardiola will indeed become the club’s new coach starting this summer on a three-year deal from BayernMunich.
The 45-year-old has had an illustrious career thus far, coaching Barcelona to 14 trophies from 2009-2012 before eventually joining BayernMunich in 2013. Here he won two Bundesliga titles and is on his way to a third-straight.
The former Spanish international enjoys deploying his team in a 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 or a 3-4-3 as diversity of formations helps to keep their game unpredictable. Possession is his style as long as they can create clear chances with the majority of them finding the back of the net.
Guardiola is a no-nonsense type of coach but he also insists that each and every one of his players enjoys playing the game. He knows how to get the very best from the players occupying each of the 11 available positions on the field.
Winning is what it is all about as he has proven so with both big clubs that he has coached.
However, he is still human and that showed the year Real Madrid went on to win the 2014 Champions League.
Real Madrid won 1-0 in the home-leg before easily demolishing Guardiola’s Bayern in the second-leg in Bavaria, 4-0… all thanks to the good old tactic of the counter-attack.
After the loss, Guardiola would apologize for getting that one wrong. His club simply forgot to defend against a club that executed wonderfully on the counter because they wanted to score that badly.
If there is one aspect of his game that needs improving it is definitely defense. Manchester City has mainly played in a 4-2-3-1 under coach Manuel Pellegrini throughout his three seasons at the helm, which means Guardiola has to either stick with it or implement his other choices before the new season commences in August.
The Spaniard will have his work cut out for him as he will need to assess the players at hand and think long and hard about who he would like to bring aboard to be part of his new legacy.
SergioAguero, YayaToure, VincentKompany, NicolasOtamendi, AlexandarKolarov, DavidSilva, KevinDe Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, KelechiIheanacho, BacarySagna, Pablo Zabaleta, JoeHart, Fernandinho, FabianDelph, EliaquimMangala, GaelClichy and some other youth products are who will have an easier time proving they belong under his guidance.
The aforementioned list of talent is above average for sure, but by signing a coach of his caliber, Manchester City better be ready to bring in some expensive new talent.
Kevin DeBruyne, ManchesterCity attacking midfielder, is going to be ruled out for up to 10 weeks due to a ligament-tear he suffered during this week.
With that being set in stone, the club needs to figure out what to do long-term until the Belgian international returns to the field.
Raheem Sterling can start out left, but he is not as good on the ball as DavidSilva. YayaToure usually sits as one of the two in the central-defensive midfield position but, but he can attack as well. Therefore, he can play as the central-attacking midfielder with a teammate on either side of him behind the lone striker.
FabianDelph could start next to Fernandinho as the central midfielders behind the three attacking ones – Silva (left), Toure (central) and JesusNavas (right). These five players are capable of proving more than enough support for SergioAguero who will be the only forward.
De Bruyne is a player that started all of the important games, was able to pick out teammates and even scored some important goals. With that reasoning, losing an in-form player towards the end of January has to hurt. He came in during August and managed to fit in with his world-class teammates like it was nothing.
Now, Manchester City has a decision to make: work with what they have or sign a player that could come in do the same damage as De Bruyne did.
One player that comes to mind with rumors carrying his name is none other than Real Madrid and Spanish international midfielder, Francisco Alarcon (Isco for short). The 23-year-old is a playmaker, a goal-scorer and is hard-working whenever he is given the chance. He is a younger version of Silva (Man City) with his level of speed, skill, vision and impact. If he joins City, he will inch closer to becoming a complete attacking midfielder with his predecessor.
Once again though: it is up to City if they want to bring in a high-quality player to replace De Bruyne in the starting XI. Although, the replacement will be temporary until the Belgian returns from injury.
Regardless of what decision is made, one thing is for certain: with everything De Bruyne has contributed thus far, to lose him now with the Round of 16 of the ChampionsLeague looming, the race to the Premier League title heating up and the domestic cup competitions completing the tournaments they are in, it is a tough break. To lose a player of his quality and impact is almost irreplaceable. But a reinforcement in Isco could always be a plus.
RealMadrid never really looked as dominant as they normally are in their 1-1 draw at RealBetis. With this result, the club has dropped its first points under the management of ZinedineZidane. However, credit does have to be given to the home side.
Real Betis opened the scoring with a screamer inside eight minutes as Alvaro Cejudo volleyed towards the top corner from roughly 18 yards out. The technique, skill, timing and bravery of the strike is what made it so deserving of the early lead.
It took Real Madrid 71 minutes to equalize as James Rodriguez found KarimBenzema for the easy tap-in into an empty net.
Betis played in a 4-2-3-1 which allowed them to contain Real for most of the game but they did watch them easily enjoy most of the possession. This formation choice is the best for hitting on the counter.
The 4-3-3 enables Real Madrid to play possession, down the wings and potentially use eight players (fullbacks, three central midfielders and three forwards) to push hard for goal-scoring opportunities.
CristianoRonaldo was nowhere near his best form on a night where a Betis fan even went as far as attempt to spit at the Portuguese international captain. He couldn’t keep the ball for too long as the home side pressured him into making mistake after mistake.
As the number seven and the highest-scorer in recent seasons, Ronaldo needs to be nearly-perfect during every single game he plays. He is the face of the team and cannot lose sight of that. His teammates work hard for him to make things happen.
GarethBale was absent for this game but it is difficult and unfair to say that he was missed. Rodriguez who started in his place at right wing did notch the game-tying assist to Benzema as previously noted. He wasn’t at his best but not many were to be fair.
Now, Real Madrid sits in third with 44 points, four behind AtleticoMadrid and Barcelona (who have one game in hand). Zidane now has to get even more from his players as winning at home will not be enough to win the league title. Maybe a high-profile signing such as EdenHazard or Edinson Cavani could give the team the boost they need to perform at an even higher level in La Liga and the Champions League.
Bayern Munich commenced the 2015-2016 Bundesliga season last August 14th with a 5-0 victory over Hamburg home ground. Tomorrow they will play on Hamburg’s ground, looking for three more points to complete the sweep this season.
One of the players that made his mark in that game was none other than DouglasCosta who had recently joined from Shaktar Donetsk that summer. The Brazilian winger is fast, quick, has skills, vision and can score beautiful goals in seconds from even outside the area. His goal against Hamburg that was memorable – a great way to kick off his career in Germany.
Besides Costa, RobertLewandowski, ThomasMuller (2) and MehdiBenatia scored on that day to complete the stat sheet.
This will be the last league match against Hamburg where PepGuardiola will be coach. As we previously learned, the former Barcelona boss has revealed that his next goal in his coaching career will be to join a side in the Premier League. With that in mind, his boys will look to impress.
Hamburg is expected to field a similar 4-2-3-1 to that of Bayern’s but the league-leading Bavarians (Bayern) will look to play their game of possession and create chances through the flanks with the fullbacks and wide midfielders using their speed, patience and skills to find the men in the middle (central attacking midfielder and striker) or to rip one on goal themselves.
The final score may not be as close to 5-0, but Bayern is expected to win.
Hamburg is in 10th place with 22 points whereas their visitors are atop the standings with 46, eight ahead of second-placed Borussia Dortmund.