FC Barcelona – Tottenham Hotspur: Defensive Diamond Neutralizes Barcelona as Spurs Reach Champions League knockout phase (1-1)
With qualification to the knockout rounds hanging by a thread, Tottenham Hotspur’s performance at Camp Nou was exceptional – albeit against a somewhat weakened FC Barcelona starting eleven. Mauricio Pochettino’s diamond system expertly exploited the holes in Barça’s pressing, whilst also causing some problems for the home side in their buildup phase, too.
Tactical analysis and match report by Peter M.
As Ernesto Valverde’s team already had won the group, the coach made the sensible decision to rest several key figures. Only four of the players that started in the Catalan derby against Espanyol last weekend also started against Tottenham. Those being Ousmane Dembélé, Ivan Rakitić, Clément Lenglet and Nélson Semedo. The rest of the team was a mix of squad players, including a European debut for millennial Juan Miranda, at left back.
There was a lot more at stake for Spurs, but it did not stop Pochettino from making four changes. The fullback pairing of Ben Davies and Serge Aurier were replaced by Danny Rose and Kyle Walker-Peters respectively. Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen were the other two, returning to the side having been given a bit more of a rest ahead of this match.
Spurs’ defensive diamond
Spurs clearly wanted to be the more aggressive team and sought to press the opponent when they were out of possession. In their attempts to do so, they set out almost exclusively in a 4-4-2 diamond formation.
When Barça attempted to build out from within their own box, Pochettino wanted his players to cut off the far side completely. So, instead of the far-sided striker sitting further off . . .