Between The Posts Tactical Analysis Weekend Preview: A Look At The Games We Will Cover This Weekend
Welcome to the weekend primer of Between the Posts, where we preview the matches that will be covered during this weekend, including a little preview of these matches. Manchester City – Tottenham Hotspur might be the centerpiece of this weekend, but don’t look away to the nice LaLiga clash, two Bundesliga belters and a fun Ligue 1 match.
Saturday, April 20th
Manchester City – Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League), 13:30 CET
Imagine the most spectacular topsy-turvy record-breaking Champions League match of the season being played again. Well… that’s exactly what we’ve got in store to kick-off your domestic football weekend.
Chasing Liverpool’s top of the Premier League spot by two points, Manchester City can’t really afford a drop of points. Meanwhile, Spurs will try to avoid dropping back into the teams below them, fighting for a top four spot: Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.
City had the upper hand on the night, but the spectacular turn-of-events where the Video Assistant Referee – correctly – chalked off their fifth goal meant Pep is out of the Champions League, again. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but in this case we’re likely to make an exception and return to City’s still smoldering Etihad Stadium.
Tactical analysis by Om Arvind.
Bayern Munich – Werder Bremen (Bundesliga), 15:30 CET
Under Florian Kohfeldt, Werder Bremen try to play a possession-based style of football. They are thus one of the few Bundesliga teams that primarily try to be the actor in a match, instead of reacting to lost possessions or setting up in a defensive stance and wait for a mistake by the opponent.
As their one true weakness lies in personnel – slow central defenders and midfielders – this might be a very open and action-packed match, as Werder are not accustomed to dropping back and waiting for the opposition to play.
There is nobody in Germany doubting Bayern Munich will win the title, which is rather strange when looking at the league table. There is one point in it, even though Bayern’s trashing of Dortmund has established the image that Bayern will stroll to the first position come May. Add in Bayern, arguably, has a more different list of fixtures to be played, and you might realize the cup race is all but decided.
Fun fact: this game will also be played as a German Cup semi final, four days after this one. If Kohfeldt has some tactical tweak to dismantle Bayern, maybe he is not even willing to lay it out here, keeping his powder dry for the cup clash. Maybe he has two different plans. Who knows?
Tactical analysis by Max Bergmann.
Borussia Mönchengladbach – Rasenballsport Leipzig (Bundesliga), 18:30 CET
Number three against number five in Germany. This feels like a typical Bundesliga game in which two teams are not afraid to play a risky vertical pass. What if we lose the ball? We’ll just gegenpress. After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. The German word for this is gegenpress. A style of play that can only be accomplished if you are in great shape physically, which can be said for both these teams.
Where will the spaces open up in the field? Considering Mönchengladbach have switched to a 3-5-2 formation in the past two weeks, whereas Leipzig has been switching formations all season long, this is hard to say.
If Leipzig manager Ralf Rangnick decides to match Dieter Hecking’s system with three central defenders, this might turn out into one of those cagey affairs that we are accustomed to see if both managers deploy three center-backs. Two times three-versus-two at the back, three-versus-three in midfield, wing-back versus wing-back at the flanks. For the tactically interested, it would be more interesting if Rangnick went for his good old 4-2-2-2 system, as it would force Mönchengladbach into a countermove to control the halfspaces. If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace.
Tactical analysis by Joel Parker.
Sunday, April 21st
Getafe – Sevilla (LaLiga), 14:00 CET
The two best teams in Spain, in terms of results at least, not considering Atlético Madrid, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The winner of this will take quite a leap into securing the fourth place in LaLiga, which in the current era of huge domination for the four biggest leagues of Europe, means a direct qualification for the Champions League, which would be huge for both clubs, Getafe in particular.
The onus for both these teams clearly is on the defensive aspect. Under Joaquín Caparrós, Sevilla play in a 4-4-2 formation, with Wissam Ben Yedder and Munir up top. Off the ball, this becomes a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 shape, which has paid dividends compared to how they lined up under Pablo Machín. It is less fun, but more solid.
Getafe has done the same thing all season: set up in a 4-4-2 formation, absorb the pressure of the opponent and strike on the counterattack. Their defensive statistics are good, not great, while their overperformance in terms of converting their chances has brought them to fifth place.
Expect a tight match with two teams desperate not to lose, decided on a few key moments.
Tactical analysis by José Perez.
Everton – Manchester United (Premier League), 14:30 CET
Perception is a weird thing, and perhaps never more than in football. On the back of a 14-2-3 record as caretaker manager, the United board thought it fit to give Ole Gunnar Solskjær a three-year contract as Manchester United manager. The record since then? Two narrow home wins over Watford and West Ham United in matches where United were by no means the dominant team. And three losses, one at Wolves in the league – ironically in a good showing – and twice to Barcelona, who knocked them out of the Champions League without really breaking a sweat.
United now returns to the City of Liverpool for the first time since José Mourinho found his Waterloo in a 3-1 defeat to the red side of town. On the blue side, manager Marco Silva is perceived to have a troubled season and is still out to convince fans and pundits alike of both his exact style and qualities. Everton’s record of late? Four wins, one draw and one loss in a series of five clean sheets in six matches, before a surprise 2-0 loss at Fulham reinstated the doubt surrounding Silva.
Story lines all over the place as blue meets red this Sunday afternoon.
Tactical analysis by Carl Carpenter.
Stade Reims – Saint-Étienne (Ligue 1), 17:00 CET
We almost went a complete Ligue 1 season without any coverage of Stade Reims, who dominated Ligue 2 last season, winning by a comfortable fifteen points margin to number two Nimes. Both Reims and Nimes currently occupy top-half positions in Ligue 1, with the former even secretly sneaking into seventh place,
on the back of the fourth best defensive record in the league. Whatsmore, Reims’ open play defense matches Paris Saint-Germain for underlying numbers and that fact alone warrants a detailed look at this Northern club, and at manager Olivier Guégan, who has been in place for four years now.
Saint-Étienne, meanwhile, are Ligue 1’s number four right now, a spot that would mean Europe League football next season. However, all eyes will be set on bridging the three points gap to third-placed Olympique Lyon and a potential Champions League qualification spot. Whereas defense is the driver of Reims’ success, offense is the recipe for Saint-Étienne. Only Dijon, Toulouse and Caen give up more expected goals, but offensively Saint-Étienne makes up for it, with the league’s fourth best tally of expected goals created.
A classic case of defense meets offense!
Tactical analysis by Siddharth Ramsundar.
Real Betis Sevilla – Valencia (LaLiga), 20:45 CET
A clash of styles as big as you’ll get ‘em. Valencia form a 4-4-2 medium block and wait for mistakes by the opposition, while Quique Setién’s Real Betis want the ball, play an expansive, Cruyffian style of play.
José Mourinho once said there are a lot of poets in football – meaning the likes of Setién, Peter Bosz or Marcelo Bielsa. But poets do not win a lot of prizes.
Considering recent form and overall player quality, this scenario seems extremely likely for this match. Valencia have turned into a murderous bunch since late February / early March, tearing through opponents and converting much more of their chances. They are still eyeing fourth place in LaLiga and have reached the semi finals of the Europa League this week. That their results deserved a big uptick was clear when looking at their underlying numbers, anyway. But in football – and in life, basically – you do not always get what you deserve.
What to expect from this match? Lots of possession for Betis without creating chances to score, paired with a few deadly counterattacks by Valencia that will decide the match.
Tactical analysis by Peter M.
Monday, April 22nd
SSC Napoli – Atalanta Bergamo (Serie A), 19:00 CET
Second meets sixth in the Serie A, yet everything shines in Bergamo, while in Napoli the atmosphere is a bit mweh at best. So, what to think of Ancelotti’s first season at Napoli?
He is on course to repeat last season’s second place in the league table to ensure another season of Champions League football. Also, the points tally has dropped off from 2.4 per match under Sarri last season to 2.1 points per match right now. Add to that the loss on the aesthetic side – admittedly a subjective argument – and the not-bad-not-good fact they reached the quarter finals of the Europa League. No, we’re probably not talking about a convincing season here.
With 64 goals scored, Atalanta have already improved on last season’s goal scoring record by seven goals, and there are still six matches to play. With Papu Gomez, Duvan Zapata and Josip Iličić in full swing, Atalanta’s offense has been a joy to watch this season. However, singling out individuals will always feel unfair in such a collective performance where everything seems to click. Let’s just enjoy it while it lasts!
Tactical analysis by Josh Manley.