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Nov 2012
12:11 Comments (11)
A night full of goals in Europe, by Rafa Benitez

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Rafa Benítez

Up to 35 goals were scored in the second set of this week´s UEFA Champions League Group Stage games. The number of average goals scored increased to four goals per game. It was a night full of action representative of what we often see in this continental competition with comfortable victories for Bayern over Lille (6-1), Juventus against Nordsjaelland (4-0) and the splendid Valencia in their game against Bate Borisov (4-2). Chelsea beat Shaktar in a game with many alternatives and Benfica beat Spartak Moscow (2-0). The surprise came from Celtic who beat Barcelona (2-1); and this time we also had some away victories with Galatasaray beating FC Cluj and lastly Manchester United beating Braga. It was an interesting night which we will now partially analyse. On with a couple of games.

Celtic Glasgow, 2-FC Barcelona, 1.

Somehow, the script was quite similar to the one we saw two weeks ago at Nou Camp. Barcelona had much ball possession and played most of the time around Celtic’s box. In the first half they had some clear chances to score, hit the post twice and moved the ball quick for long periods trying to find the right option to penetrate Celtic’s defence. Both fullbacks, especially Jordi Alba, provided depth and width in attack. Celtic, for their part, sat back with two lines of four and tried to stop Alexis and Pedro in the wide areas –always a threat in one v one challenges- with Mulgrew and Commons helping their fullbacks out. Celtic’s only threat in attack arrived from set pieces, with Samaras as their target man. Celtic’s first goal precisely arrived from a corner when Wanyawa headed the ball in the second post to the back of the net.

Image created with 'Globall Coach'.

In the second half Barcelona insisted on the same game plan but they couldn’t break through Celtic’s defence as they were well organised with the mentioned two lines of four in front of their box. Alexis, who played more in the middle, and Messi were a constant threat going inside from the right wing with his typical diagonal runs. Chances to score were less than in the second half and Foster was always brave saving those ones from Pedro, Alexis and Messi. However, it was Watt who scored the second for Celtic finishing a long ball from Foster after a defensive error by Barcelona. In the last minute Messi put the 2-1 on the scoreboard after a great combinative play inside the box, but time was running out and Celtic achieved an important victory. Barcelona had 89% ball possession and made a total of 955 passes, whilst Celtic had 11% possession and made 166 passes. Many factors influence the final result in a football game and that is what makes it such an attractive game.

In conclusion, we saw something that sometimes happens to Barcelona. As they don’t play with a classic centerforward the crosses they deliver from wide areas are not effective if their wingers don’t get to the byline. Also their penetrations through the middle have to be extremely precise to be successful as they always face a crowded defence in central areas which increases the risk of counterattacks when they lose the ball as the team is open.

Bayern, 6-Lille, 1.

Bayern beat Lille in a game where the French were far from the level they normally display in the French League. Bayern displayed a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, with Javi Martinez closer to the centerbacks and Schweinsteiger playing a bit higher with more freedom. Ribery and Robben in wide areas went constantly inside creating space for the fullbacks to go forward. In front Pizarro, and Muller behind him, were always a threat. For their part Lille displayed a 1-4-3-3 that converted into a 1-4-1-4-1 in defence.
Image created with 'Globall Coach'.

Just after 28 minutes Lille were 4-0 down, unable to stop Bayern’s quality and intensity. Two goals arrived from set pieces (one from a great free kick taken by Schweinsteiger) and two from open play, showing the many alternatives Bayern had in attack. Lahm went constantly forward providing width and depth which caused big problems for Lille’s defence. At the end of the first half the French were 5-0 down with their goalkeeper being the best man on the pitch.

In the second half the game lost some intensity. Kalou scored a great goal for Lille and Kroos converted the last for Bayern finishing another assist from Lahm.

Bayern Munchen displayed most of the virtues they showed last season: quality players in front and many different attacking resources to break through rivals’ defences. Also the depth of their squad is vital to be able to keep the strength they are showing both in the Champions League and the Bundesliga.

Overall, Manchester United has secured a place in the knock out stages whilst in the rest of the groups there is much to be decided. In Group E a difference of one point exists for a place between three candidates, these include FC Bayern and Valencia without forgetting Bate Borisov and in Group G Barcelona will need one point to avoid a scare. Perhaps it will be in the following week, what will be the fifth round, that we will see confirmed places for the knock out stages of this UEFA Champions League. We will report it from here too. See you then.

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

11 Comments Send us your opinions
08/11/12 at 13:11:09 #1
Hi. Rafa
How do you rate Valencia under Pelgrini "?
How far are they going to progress in the champion lg do you think. ?
08/11/12 at 14:25:25 #2
tamojit chakraborty
sir i want to ask u something
from now on every will barca match be like this one?, barca will pass..pass..and pass whereas other teams use 10 defenders and relay only on corner kick and counter to score and win, Inter did it, chelsea did it, Madrid did it, celtic did it...other teams will follow...
however most often than not barca are gonna win about a 90 in 100 matches coz of their beautiful passing game
sir i wanted to know what is the best way to counter barca's mode of play,,,so that they can be quelled?


Hello, always I say it depends on your players. Celtic was stronger in the air than Barcelona so the corner or set pieces were a good plan, but maybe other teams will be just very good in counterattack but nos as good in the air, so it depends on you own players how you will attack them. Thanks.
09/11/12 at 06:09:10 #3
Ritam Sarkar
sir i want to know that manchester city have quite a good standard squad.... what is lacking in their teams in champions league?????
they r performing too good in premier league but their performance in ucl is quite down-to-earth....


Hello Ritam, it is a difficult group, but they are a good team. What do you think is going on? Thanks
09/11/12 at 09:05:07 #4

Is it possible to send you an email? I have a question for you.
You can send me a direct message on Twitter if you have the time.

Looking forward to reading the book.


Hello, you have the email address on the website. Thank you.
09/11/12 at 14:26:05 #5
Ritam Sarkar
Sir i know that maybe manchester city is in tough group..... but they have quite a experienced manager in the form of mancini..... is the lack of experience in ucl is what troubling manc's performance????


Hello again, I don't think so. The players have experience in Champions League or at international level too. Thanks.
10/11/12 at 08:51:59 #6
In relation to more and more teams adopting more of a tiki taka style of play,we have seen more and more teams counter it by opting to hold two banks of deep lines and cramp them for room on the edge of the box staying narrow, forcing them wide and keeping play in front of them. This leaves ample space and time to get quality balls in but no one to really aim for hence forcing their hand at trying to play through it or take long shots. Do you think such a system could function with a relatively static forward who is strong and good in the air maybe to give them another dimension that would force the fullbacks to break out and try and prevent crosses hence creating more space as well as give them a feasible aerial threat or would it be too much of a sacrifice in the attacking build up play as a relatively smaller and skillful forward would offer more in terms of movement and pulling defenders out of position which is pivotal for an intricate short passing game to be effective.
12/11/12 at 11:25:41 #7
Dear Rafa
Hope to see you back in the dugout soon; you have been away for too long since Inter.
You can't wait forever for Liverpool, things have changed and you will probably be better off with another challenge elsewhere. All the best.
19/11/12 at 18:43:51 #8
Most of the people who write at your blog are Indian including me. I would love to see Torres play once again and you as manager at Ainfield. The way Liverpool play right now is utterly boring I liked your style more which was far more entertaining. Though a die hard Liverpool supporter, I have stopped watching their games from this season on. I hope atleast they sign Klaas jan huntelaar. I hope you would come at QPR and prove lverpool admin what they missed!
20/11/12 at 23:58:59 #9
Hi Rafa,
Great Post.
We are missing you at Liverpool. Please come back and take us to another level... Liverpool needs you big time!
05/05/13 at 01:10:13 #10
hello rafa , would love to ask you what you look for in a player and what do you see in them and also why do you play a 4231 formation. you are the best manager liverpool had since shankly and paisley, the players you brought to the club were world class. would love you back home at anfield. cheers rafa, YNWA.


Hello Dave, too many and important questions all of them. The players: it depends on the positions, they have to understand the game. The system because has been a good system for me and you can change quickly if it is necessary. LFC has had very good managers, it will be unfair to name just one. Thank you.
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