Preview football matches weekend tactical analysis

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. Seven in total!


Friday, January 25th


Olympique Marseille – Lille OSC (Ligue 1), 20:45 CET

This game pits Ligue 1’s number two against its number seven. Before the season commenced, you may have guessed Marseille would be the runners-up behind PSG, with Lille settling in the stable of clubs in the upper mid-tier. The tables have turned, however, meaning Lille go into this match as favorites.

Lille’s manager Christophe Gautier has turned his team into Ligue 1’s surprise package utilizing a fairly standard 4-2-3-1 shape, focusing on feeding the ball to their hugely talented attackers in behind the defense or between the opponent’s midfield and defense.

If you give Lille space and time to successfully counterattack, you are dead meat. Marseille therefore will probably approach their possession-game with extreme cautiousness, because nobody wants to get in a foot race with Nicolas Pépé or Jonathan Ikoné.

Oh and by the way, Marseille signed a new player two days ago, you might have heard of him: Mario Balotelli. This game might be his debut for Marseille, which serves as another reason to give this match a chance.

Tactical analysis by Josh Manley.


Arsenal – Manchester United (FA Cup), 20:55 CET

Definitely the stand-out fixture in the fourth round of the FA Cup. On a Friday night. Any reasons not to tune in?

Arsenal are in a transition season under Unai Emery. Results-wise it has been a bit of a mixed bag. They started the Premier League campaign with losses against Manchester City and Chelsea, but then went on unbeaten streak that lasted a 22 games long. Results were definitely better than their underlying numbers. The expected regression came halfway through December, and losses to Southampton, Tottenham, Liverpool and West Ham United followed. Last weekend, Arsenal impressed with a well-designed system to counter Chelsea’s main threat. Unai Emery has been quite flexible in his choice of formations and it will be interesting to see how he sets his team up against Manchester United.

A sudden turn of results in mid December definitely applies to United as well, although in a more positive direction. Since caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over, the team went on a winning streak fueled by a new found offensive flexibility that brings out the best from their array of young talents. Most notably Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba have put up impressive numbers over the past month. United’s offense against Arsenal’s – at times – wobbly back line and defensive midfield will definitely make for an entertaining viewing on your Friday night.

Tactical analysis by Martyn Davis.

arsenal - chelsea passmap premier league

Saturday, January 26th


VfL Wolfsburg – Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Bundesliga), 15:30 CET

After an unfortunate loss against Borussia Mönchengladbach, this game almost qualifies as ‘must-win’ for Leverkusen’s new manager Peter Bosz, as Bayern Munich are coming to Leverkusen next week. No manager wants to finish his first three games in charge of a new club with zero points, so that puts quite some weight on this match.

Deploying his standard 4-3-3 formation, Leverkusen’s first match under Bosz’ reign was actually quite good. The pressing was not as hyper-aggressive as one might expect, Leverkusen fell back in a medium block A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. quite often. Tactics aside, getting to watch Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz as attacking central midfielders is just super fun, to put it simple. So let’s hope Bosz decides to field that midfield again.

Wolfsburg are two places above Leverkusen, in Bundesliga’s sixth place, with four points separating the both clubs. The last two seasons, Die Wölfe have been fighting relegation battles. With manager Bruno Labbadia at the helm, this season, they have steadily settled themselves in Bundesliga’s host of clubs trailing in Dortmund’s and Bayern Munich’s wake in close proximity of one another. All the clashes between the eight or nine clubs placed behind the top-two are tight, tactical battles definitely worth watching.

In this match, Wolfsburg will likely sit deep and opt for a counterattacking strategy to triumph over Leverkusen’s possession-and-pressing style. Might be fun to watch!

Tactical analysis by Erik Elias.

Passmap Bayer Leverkusen Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-1 Bundesliga

AC Milan – SSC Napoli (Serie A), 20:30 CET

Lots a stake here, with two teams facing different challenges. AC Milan are in a four-horse race for the fourth Champions League ticket, behind obviously Juventus, Napoli and Internazionale. They face stern competition from known commodities Lazio and AS Roma, and from a more surprising Atalanta Bergamo. Milan have injected quality into their squad with Brazilian midfield talent Lucas Paquetá. Furthermore, the hot seat that is called Milan’s striker position has seen another switch. Higuaín’s disappointing spell has come to a quick end with his move to rejoin Sarri at Chelsea, and Milan have brought in Polish striker Krzysztof Piątek from Genoa. Two transfers north of thirty million in a desperate chase for that Champions League ticket.

Napoli have impressed with a smooth transition to new management. No more ‘Sarriball’, but a more pragmatic 4-4-2 formation under the experienced guidance of Carlo Ancelotti. For those still believing in a Serie A title race, this is a must-win fixture for Napoli, who are already nine points behind a sublime Juventus. Those with a more realistic view might say second place seems more or less certain for Napoli, with a nice seven point cushion over third placed Inter. Any way you look at it, the pressure will be on Milan to set the tone for the second half of their campaign.

Tactical analysis by José Pérez.

Sunday, January 27th


Girona – FC Barcelona (LaLiga), 16:15 CET

Sandwiched in between the double Copa del Rey tie with Real Madrid, Girona have the unenviable task of hosting Barcelona this weekend. Girona has not registered a LaLiga win in over two months, but still hold a reasonable twelfth spot in an insanely competitive league table. In theory, a win could propel them as high as eighth, while a loss could drop them to seventeenth. Girona have been completely dependant on 32-year old striker Cristhian Stuani, who scored over half of their goals, leading to rumors of a potential move to… Barcelona. Until they landed Kevin-Prince Boateng, that was.

Barcelona are in a balancing act of preparing for life after the generation of Messi and Busquets, while still living up to the expectations of winning LaLiga and winning another Champions League trophy. Only those living under a large rock might have missed Frenkie de Jong’s transfer to Barcelona, effective next summer. In other news this week, a rotational Barcelona team – no Messi, no Busquets – lost 2-0 to Sevilla in the Copa del Rey. Barcelona hold a five point cushion to Atlético, who struggle with their offensive numbers, so their their prospects to win another LaLiga title are optimistic.

Tactical analysis by Peter M.

SS Lazio – Juventus (Serie A), 20:30 CET

Lazio Roma are only two points away from the fourth spot in Serie A’s league table, but for the life of them, they can not win a game against one of Serie A’s other top clubs. So far this season, six league encounters with Juventus, Napoli, AS Roma, Internazionale and AC Milan have culminated in only one point. With that in mind, it will be quite a challenge for them when the biggest and baddest of all top clubs come to town: Juventus.

Last Monday against Chievo Verona – routine 3-0 victory – Juventus rotated heavily, which means they will be fully rested to further demonstrate their ferocious hunger for more scudetti.

Lazio are not a side that aim to contain an opponent and are perfectly willing to press high up the field. Even though Juve’s central midfielders are often more workhorse types than pure technicians, under the guidance of regista Miralem Pjanić, Juventus are very able to play their way out of that press, which will make for fine viewing, whatever the outcome of the match will be.

Tactical analysis by Rowdy Nossent.

PSG – Stade Rennais (Ligue 1), 21:00 CET

When looking at Rennes’ underlying offensive and defensive numbers, nothing very peculiar stands out. Their expected goals created The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. is quite good, as they are fifth in the league in that regard, which is a little better than their actual output in terms of goals scored. In their 4-2-3-1 formation, they will most likely stop PSG in two banks of four with their number ten dropping deep into the defensive lines as well.

In bigger news, Neymar got injured in a midweek cup match against Strasbourg. With the Champions League tie against Manchester United being less than twenty days away, it is left a bit ambiguous how severe his injury is.

Even without Neymar, PSG will win this match, but if he is not on the pitch, it might serve as a pointer as to how manager Thomas Tuchel is planning to win against the revamped Manchester United.

Tactical analysis by Chris Baker.

Erik Elias (24) is co-founder and Head Editor of Between the Posts. Dutch, so admires Johan Cruijff and his football principles, but enjoys writing about other styles too. After six years of coaching youth football in the Netherlands, it's now time to focus on journalism. Communication student, graduating this year. Anchor of ‘De Voetbalpodcast', weekly Dutch football podcast. [ View all posts ]

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