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Oct 2012
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Just two home victories, by Rafa Benitez

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

Five away wins, a draw in Turin and just two home wins, both in Group F on Tuesday, the first day of the Champions League second week. Most of the home teams found it hard to get results, just Bate Borisov with a win against Bayern following another win in Lille in the previous week, and Valencia who also beat the French side in Mestalla, were able to win at home. Chelsea had a comfortable win (0-4), Manchester United had a tough game (1-2) and Barcelona paid a price too high to get the 3 points from Benfica (0-2) as Puyol was injured and Sergio Busquets was sent off. Let’s analyse now in more detail all the games of the last night’s European matches.

Nordsjaelland, 0– Chelsea, 4.

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A comfortable win for the London team in Denmark with a double by Juan Mata. Both teams started the match with the same formation, 1-4-2-3-1, although the Danish defended with two front men in parallel and Chelsea did so with Torres always higher than Oscar.

From the beginning it could be noticed, that as expected Nordsjaelland were going to play from behind, trying to build up play even when Chelsea were pressing high.

For their part Chelsea also tried to keep the ball knowing that they were superior both physically and technically, but still they had a few problems in defence as it wasn’t clear if they wanted to press high or wait for the rivals in their own half.

The Danish had more ball possession but were not able to create chances. They tried to attack from the beginning but in defence they had obvious problems that were soon exploited when Chelsea regained the ball and launched quick counterattacks creating clear chances and finished by Torres most of the time. In one of these occasions Chelsea scored the first goal when Torres regained the ball, passed it to Lampard who assisted Mata to put 0-1 on the scoreboard on the 33rd minute.

With this score the set up was even clearer. Chelsea found their rivals’ weak point and knew that they just had to patiently wait for the next error to have more chances.

In the second half the English side made it clear and decided to press high from the beginning. For their part Nordsjaelland also had to do so as they needed to score. With both defensive lines playing higher the strikers started to find more spaces behind the back four to run and get into the box and the game became much more open.

It was at that stage of the game where the Danish had a clear chance to score the equaliser but Cech made a brilliant save to John’s strike deflecting the ball to the post. But just a few minutes later David Luiz netted the second for Chelsea from a free kick and Mata scored the third when he easily ran through their defence. Ramires, in the last minutes of the game, scored the 0-4 after an assist from Oscar.

In the end, Chelsea was superior to Nordsjaelland, who tried in every moment to play the ball on the floor but had clear defensive problems as they lacked intensity and were too open so the English players had many chances to break through their back four and their quality did the rest.

Juventus, 1-Shakhtar Donetsk, 1.

The draw in Turin was a bit of a surprise in Group E. Shakhtar scored first but Juventus immediately equalised to draw a game that was tactically very attractive.

Juventus displayed their usual 1-3-5-2 formation and started the game with some doubts when building up play and when trying to reduce spaces in the opposite half. They were not comfortable on the pitch and didn’t show their usual intensity and pace, dropping off quite often and leaving ball possession to the rivals. In the first 25 minutes of the game Shakhtar had 65% ball possession and Juventus were just able to create a few chances from set pieces, such as the one from Bonucci after a perfectly taken corner kick that ended up being their only goal.

Shakhtar (1-4-2-3-1) appeared to be a better team in the first third of the game. They always played from behind, created superiority on the wings especially with William and Teixeira, alternating ball possession with quick attacks and playing more in the opposite half, getting dangerously into the box. In the second half their intensity dropped, playing a bit deeper and losing some control of the game. Juventus pressed higher with more intensity and aggressiveness regaining the ball close to Shakhtar’s box. They were more dangerous on the right wing and their second attacking line started to break through Shakhtar’s back four more frequently creating a good amount of chances.

In the last third of the game Shakhtar hit back with dangerous counterattacks driven by William, Alex Teixeira and Mkhitaryan, and in one of them they were very close to scoring the second goal in the 92nd minute when William hit the post. In the end, two teams with different styles of play but with enough resources to be between the best in Europe.

Valencia, 2 – Lille, 0.

First win for Valencia in the group stages and a second loss for the French side, who are yet to get a point after two games.

Valencia started the game with a 1-4-2-3-1 formation with the lines very close together and quiet high on the pitch, whilst Lille displayed a 1-4-3-3 playing a bit deeper. Valencia controlled the game from the first minute, keeping the ball and trying to create superiority on the wings with Barragan going forward, Feghouli always very active and Soldado going to the wide areas. Gago was also very participative controlling the tempo of the game and switching play with criteria.

Lille had problems defending on the wide areas as the line of midfielders were too far from the back four and the wingers were always late to help out in defence. Their attacking options were reduced to playing counterattacks looking for Mendes, always very active in front. But Valencia was compact and well organised in defence, regaining the ball quite quickly forcing errors from the French.

In the first goal, Valencia broke through the French back four playing wide then penetrating through the middle, something that happened more than once during the game.

After half time Lille tried to build up play a bit more but still were positioned too deep, Valencia’s players were very mobile giving width and depth making it hard for the French to defend. As the game progressed their defensive problems increased as the back four line was constantly too open which generated necessary spaces for Valencia’s Jonas, Soldado and Feghouli to get through.

In conclusion, Valencia was always better than Lille, more organised and compact and deserved to win and in the end they did with a double from Jonas.

Bate Borisov, 3 – Bayern München, 1.
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Bate Borisov’s win over Bayern München was one the biggest surprises of the day. With a 3-1 win, the same score they got against Lille in the first week, they are top of the group F.

The locals started the game with a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, with many bodies in midfield to stop the German’s play, which for their part displayed as well a 1-4-2-3-1 with Javi Martinez alongside Luiz Gustavo as holding midfielders. After the first ten minutes Bayern started to control the game and created the first clear chance when Kroos hit the post. However, it was the local team who scored first when Pavlov finished a long collective play. With this advantage Goncharenko decided to sit his team a bit deeper leaving the initiative to Bayern. Javi Martinez and Luiz Gustavo couldn’t participate too much as the midfield area was too crowded and Kroos had to drop his position too much to receive the ball. Both fullbacks, Badstuber and Lahm gave the necessary width when Muller and Ribery were going inside. However, Bayern’s attacks were too predictable as they could just create some danger delivering crosses for Mandzukic and Muller.

In the second half Heynckes made three substitutions. Shaqiri, Schwensteiger and Pizarro entered the pitch; Luiz Gustavo played as a left fullback and Kroos a bit deeper. Even so, the Germans were not comfortable on the pitch whilst Bate started to find the necessary spaces to launch quick counterattacks with Hleb and Pavlov, and in one of them they scored the second goal with just 15 minutes to go.

Bayern kept trying hard until the end and had some chances to score especially from set pieces. Gorbunov deflected the ball to the crossbar after a corner kick, and just a bit later, in the 90th minute Ribery scored the first goal for Bayern after a good assist from Shaqiri. But in another counterattack launched by Mozolevski, Bressan scored the definitive 3-1. In the end a surprising win for Bate who, step by step are showing their potential.

Benfica, 0- Barcelona, 2.

Comfortable win for Barcelona on their visit to Lisbon, although not everything was positive for the Catalans. Carles Puyol got injured after a bad fall and Sergio Busquets was sent off in the last minutes of the game, circumstances that partially ruined the night as they await for ‘El Clasico’ this weekend.

Benfica displayed from the beginning of the game a 1-4-1-4-1 formation, a variation of their usual 1-4-3-3. They defended very deep, with a very crowded defence and were never able to show their main virtues: ball possession, short passing, width in attack, etc. With that set up they tried to create some chances from set pieces, where Barcelona is not the strongest, and from counterattacks.

When in the second half Martins and Aimar entered the pitch they started to have more ball possession and be more dangerous in front of Valdes’ goal. Even after being 0-2 down they continued to create chances and put Barcelona under real pressure for more than 10 minutes, mainly from set pieces. If they are able to keep that same intensity in the next games they will for sure have chances to qualify.

Barcelona displayed their classical 1-4-3-3 performing at a high level considering the injuries. Messi, always very active, played as a ‘false nine’ to generate spaces for Fabregas, Alexis and Pedro to get in. The Argentinean was also very precise assisting first Alexis and then Fabregas in both goals.

During some stages of the game Barcelona also played long balls behind the centerbacks, showing that when it comes to get a result Vilanova can be very practical. With the win Barcelona is in a good position to get to the next stages. The shame is, as aforesaid, the loss of Puyol and Busquets for the next games.

Spartak Moskva, 2-Celtic Glasgow, 3.

Away victory for Celtic in Moscow in a much levelled match in which the Scottish side worked very hard to get the 3 points.

Spartak started displaying a 1-4-3-3 formation and they found it very hard to get into the rhythm of the game and show consistency in defence. Their lines were too often too far apart and they had problems controlling Celtic’s counterattacks, and in one of them the first goal for the Scots arrived when Hooper finished Lustig’s good run on the right wing.

As the game progressed Spartak started to get more ball possession (57%). Kallstrom was pivotal in build up play and they were clearly superior in the offensive phase. As a result of that Emenike scored a double in the 41st and 48th minute.

Celtic started the second half with many doubts in defence, finding it difficult to narrow the spaces both inside and on the wide areas. They also had more problems in build up play and trying to play with their midfielders.

In the 63 minute Spartak was left with 10 men when Isaurraspe was sent off and then Celtic changed to a 1-4-4-2, which eventually would be decisive as they started to press higher, attacking more on the wide areas and to creating more chances. Minutes later Celtic scored the equaliser after a good cross delivered by Mulgrew and Samaras put the third on the scoreboard heading another cross from the left wing. In the end, Celtic took advantage of their numerical superiority on the pitch in the second half whilst Spartak showed more quality and had more ball possession although it wasn’t enough to win the game.

Galatasaray, 0- Sporting Braga, 2.

Some could consider Sporting’s away win in Turkey a bit unfair, but the Portuguese side played a serious game and made the most of the few chances they had.

Galatasaray displayed their classical 1-4-4-2, formation always preferred by their coach Terim when they play at home. They had some problems in defence, especially with the fullbacks, and also in the midfield with their players driving the ball too much. In attack they played quite direct.

For their part, Sporting Braga displayed a 1-4-2-3-1 knowing exactly what they had to do on the pitch. The goalkeeper showed composure, both fullbacks played a good game, and so did both centerbacks, who always got the help from their holding midfielders. The wingers were a threat every time they went forward and Micael and Eder were always ready to finish. With these tools Sporting had enough to beat Galatasaray, who maybe it a bit more. Sporting appeared to be a team that based their strengths on counterattack and on set pieces, and they did it very well. That could be enough to be the surprise of the group and qualify for the next stage.

CFR Cluj, 1 – Manchester United, 2.

After beating Sporting Braga in the first week, Cluj as hosts to Manchester United had every intention of getting a positive result. Cluj displayed a 1-4-4-2 formation playing quite deep and compact in defence trying to play counterattack, whilst Manchester United started with a 1-4-1-3-2 trying to have long ball possession in order to create spaces to get into the box. They were controlling the game and regaining the ball quickly with they then lost. Fletcher as holding midfielder gave freedom to Cleverley and Anderson to go forward as Rooney played behind Van Persie and Hernandez always being a threat between the lines. Both fullbacks, Rafael and Evra, went forward with determination giving width to their team, but quite often lacked some support to go inside.

Surprisingly Cluj was the first to score when Kapetanos finished a cross from the right delivered by Sougou, who had to be replaced minutes later injured. This eventually meant a big loss for their team. After conceding the goal United continued to create chances, especially through Anderson, Rooney and Van Persie. The latter scoring the equaliser finishing from a free kick taken by Rooney. Before the end of the first half, Hernandez and Van Persie had clear chances that were cleared by the goalkeeper.

The second half began with complete control of the game by United, who soon scored their second goal after Van Persie netted an assist from Rooney. United were close to a 70% ball possession but didn’t convert this into chances, whilst Cluj had their options to equalise. Kapetanos and Ricardo Cardu first and Rafael Bastos in extra time could have done it but De Gea responded with great saves.

In conclusion, there were some surprises but still everything is left to be decided that said, some teams are already in a privileged situation to reach the next stage. Today, more Champions League games which will also be analysed here tomorrow.

For results and tables of the Champions League, click on the next image:

03/10/12 at 17:13:38 #1
Fantastic stuff as usual!
04/10/12 at 02:36:26 #2
As usual, brilliant analysis Rafa. Actually I am looking for the City vs. Dortmund game, Dortmund is a very joyful team to watch. But, anyway Bayern's defeat to BATE was indeed the biggest surprise, Ribery and Muller were not very discipline to track back, and this made Javi Martinez and Gustavo worked very hard to control the midfield area. Do you think their lost because of their midfield or the flaw in their gameplan (too predictable)?


Hello, I think we have to give credit to Bate because the Bayern game plan is known for everyone, but still they are better than the other teams because the level of his players. So, credit to Bate. Thanks.