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 matches in total this weekend, several of those having implications on the domestic title race, as we rapidly move towards the business end of the season.
Saturday, February 9th
Borussia Dortmund – TSG Hoffenheim (Bundesliga), 15:30 CET
Dortmund are still league leaders and by now, and every game they play might feel like a final. Still leading over Bayern Munich – and Borussia Mönchengladbach, to be fair – with a healthy amount of seven points, Dortmund missed a golden opportunity last week to extend their lead to nine points. As Bayern Munich lost against Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund failed to beat Eintracht Frankfurt, mainly due to their opponent’s pressing. With the clash against Bayern Munich being planned in early April, Dortmund need wins to maintain their solid buffer in points.
Hoffenheim are a pesky bunch to play against, however. Manager Julian Nagelsmann always comes up with a smart plan to derail opponents, whether it is some sort of elaborate pressing scheme or a hyper-conservative defensive organization. In the away game for instance, Hoffenheim totally outplayed Dortmund, despite having far a far cheaper and lower quality squad. The title implications off the pitch and tactical battle on the pitch makes this a very interesting and attractive match-up you probably cannot miss.
Tactical analysis by Erik Elias.
Atlético Madrid – Real Madrid (LaLiga), 16:15 CET
Atlético Madrid probably would have wanted this fixture to be played a couple of weeks ago, when Real Madrid were in full crisis mode. The last few weeks however, Real Madrid have somewhat found their footing, winning four LaLiga matches in a row and drawing against FC Barcelona in cup action. In El Clásico, Solari fielded his strongest eleven and made some granite choices in his team selection, involving benching Gareth Bale, Casemiro, Marco Asensio and Isco.
Atlét seem fine and consistent. Their recent loss against Real Betis capped off a domestic unbeaten streak that ran back to early September, but that does not tell the whole story. Atléti are suffering from heavy Griezmanndependencia, as the French attacker and set-pieces are accountable for roughly seventy percent of Atléti’s goal production.
Recent form aside, most of El Derbi’s from the past few seasons have followed more or less the same mould. Real Madrid have the ball, Atlético try to contain in their vintage defensive organization and incidentally press and take over the initiative for ten minutes or so. Small details often decide this match, these are tight affairs, and the crowd is just as intense in Wanda Metropolitano as it was in Vicente Calderón, so this is almost mandatory viewing.
Tactical analysis by Om Arvind.
Fiorentina – SSC Napoli (Serie A), 18:00 CET
If Napoli would have been just a bit better at set-pieces, they might have competed with Juventus for this season’s scudetto. Let that one sink in, as Juventus are currently perceived as the almighty glutton that keeps gobbling up prize after prize uncontested.
Napoli’s opponent Fiorentina are still not able to play as well-groomed as their manager Stefano Pioli, which might be a challenge for any team in the world, by the way… In recent weeks, there have been a lot of goals, which is quite uncharacteristic for Pioli’s side, as they are fierce lovers of 1-0, 1-1 and 2-1 games. Their defense is fine and thoroughly compact, therefore Napoli will have to make the most of their width in their 4-4-2 formation. Quietly, Arkadiusz Milik is popping up as one of Napoli’s unsung heroes this season, as he is currently averaging one goal every 104 minutes in domestic league play.
Tactical analysis by Peter M.
Bayern Munich – Schalke ‘04 (Bundesliga), 18:30 CET
Last week’s loss at Leverkusen proved to be a missed opportunity for Bayern Munich to reduce the gap to league leaders Dortmund. But the football world moves fast, and another round of matches means another chance for Bayern to make up lost ground.
In years past, a visit of Schalke ‘04 was one of the more stern tests of a Bundesliga season, but last season’s Bundesliga runners-up are having a troublesome season. A meagre two away wins and a grey twelfth spot are not usually associated with ‘Die Königsblauen’. However, their underlying numbers paint a more positive picture. As per our team stats page, Schalke rank seventh in expected goals, with a very interesting split between open play and set pieces. The performance in set pieces – second in the league – just about paints over the sub-par bottom-half numbers in open play.
Tactical analysis by Carl Carpenter.
Sunday, February 10th
Manchester City – Chelsea (Premier League), 17:00 CET
Manchester City are league leaders again! Because Pep Guardiola’s team made it into the Carabao Cup final, their game against Everton was rescheduled. City won it – thanks to a dominant attacking display – which means they now lead the league on goal difference, even though Liverpool still have a game in hand.
The midweeks action also means City have had less rest than Chelsea, who have had a full week to prepare. For the first time under Maurizio Sarri’s reign, Chelsea have fallen outside of the Premier League’s top-four. The problem seems to be the involvement of the striker in combination play, a lack of counterpressing and individual mistakes at the back. To address that first problem, the 31-year-old Gonzalo Higuaín was signed from Juventus. He looked good in Chelsea’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield, but let’s just say that transfer has the potential to go either way, shall we?
The last time these two sides met, Chelsea won even though City were clearly the better team, especially in the first half. Sarri’s side is not built for retreating on their own half and conceding the play, which is what they will probably have to do here to get a result.
Tactical analysis by Josh Manley.
Sassuolo – Juventus (Serie A), 18:00 CET
Sassuolo are sixth in terms of possession and fifth in terms of passing accuracy, which signals their preferred playing style. At the start of the season, Roberto de Zerbi’s Sassuolo were the hot team in Italy. Their pass-and-move football was not only pleasing for the eye, it went hand in hand with good results. In late September, Sassuolo were Serie A’s number three on the league table, when a heavy loss spun their season in a different direction. Since that match, only three more league matches were won, as most teams capitalize on Sassuolo’s mistakes when building up, while their counterpress is insufficient to deny their opponent counterattacking opportunities.
Allegri’s Juventus are true predators, who have not lost a Serie A match yet. Do not think they will feel a burden to make this an attractive match, or that they feel they have to take the game to Sassuolo. They will most likely sit back and try to strike on the counterattack with Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala. When managers like Allegri and De Zerbi meet, the more pragmatic one often makes very nice compliments to the idealist – more often than not with three points in hand.
Tactical analysis by Rowdy Nossent.
OSG Nice – Olympique Lyonnais (Ligue 1), 21:00 CET
Lyon had one of their trademark matches against PSG. When everything clicks and Lyon can make the game into an open, end-to-end affair, they can truly beat every team on the planet. Their kryptonite so far has been performing well against mid-table teams and lower, who slow down the pace and reduce the spaces for Lyon’s dynamic attackers to play in.
Nice are a team like that, which means this might be a problematic away game for Lyon. Whether Nice plays with three or two central defenders, manager Patrick Vieira has been perfectly able to install a compact defensive organization, which shows in their underlying defensive numbers, as Nice are currently seventh in the league in terms of Expected Goals conceded. The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take.
Tactical analysis by Chris Baker.