Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund meet in the group stages yet again in what has turned out to be one of the more common and exciting pairings within the last 5 seasons. Los Blancos continue to dominate in Europe with a diamond made up of Isco, Modric, Kroos, and Casemiro. Dortmund sought to bring their high pressing 4-3-3 and counterpressing to the game, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
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Paul Pogba is a name many people in football are familiar with. Manchester United fans are likely still having nightmares over the fact that he left them to join Juventus just a few seasons ago. One of Pogba’s most famous quotes is one in which he explains why he left the Red Devils: “I said to Ferguson: ‘Play me, and I will show you if I’m ready or not,’ Then against Blackburn on December 31, 2011, I was on the bench. Ferguson put Rafael in midfield with Ji Sung Park. Then I gave up.”
Pressing, counterpressing, and counterattacking are three very popular concepts that are associated with the most exciting and dominant teams in modern football. Pressing and counterattacking are perhaps the more “classic” ideas in football tactics, while counterpressing is a buzzword which has become quite popular over the last five to six years – despite having existed for decades. But what do these terms really mean and why are they so important to modern football?
In the beginning of Tuchel’s tenure as head coach in Dortmund a special product developed on the field due to the interaction of the style of play from the previous coach and his own. The team was in a transition phase where they were moving from Jurgen Klopp who was known for his intense, compact, and dynamic style of play both in and out of possession, to former Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel.
Zidane’s first game as a head coach. Throughout the game traces of the strategy used under Carlo Ancelotti (while Zidane was the assistant) were visible while some problems which existed under Benitez still weren’t done away with. Ultimately, it looked as Real Madrid took a step in the right direction and it will be exciting to see how good they can become with more time under their new head galactico.
A crazy, crazy game. Just as it looked like Ronaldo had earned a penalty, Valencia launch a counterattack which results in a Kovacic red card and Real Madrid playing with ten men. Then Madrid take the lead off of a set piece – but Valencia immediately equalizes afterwards. The key to this match up was the defensive set-up from both teams.
A game which was ultimately decided by a scrappy goal from a set piece. There were plenty of chances for both teams throughout the game as neither of them could stop the other’s offensive strategy. Newcastle’s man-marking in defense and Arsenal’s lack of pressure on the ball made this and open game.
2nd place meets 4th place in this top of the table clash. Leicester is coming off of a loss to Klopp’s Liverpool while Manchester City won handedly on Boxing Day 4-1 in their last match. Despite Leicester’s impressive run in this underdog story everyone is loving, Manchester City was still considered the heavy favorites. LCFCs deep block and counterattacking strategy stifled MCFC and didn’t yield any results for themselves – resulting in the 0:0 scoreline.
A final played between two historic clubs in the Ernst-Happel-Stadion (named after the great innovator and coach) in Vienna, Austria. Both Louis Van Gaal and Fabio Capello were young coaches 20 years (!) ago at the time of this final. Neither team had any trouble reaching the final, as Ajax beat Hajduk Split 3-0 and Bayern Munich 5-2 – and AC Milan beat Benifica 2-0 and PSG 3-0 to reach Europe’s biggest stage. Though both teams were dominant on their road to the final, neither team played well enough to create more than a few chances – which resulted in the only goal coming in the 85th minute.
“The Special One” met his former mentor from their days in Barcelona on Europe’s biggest stage. Inter Milan had just come off of a legendary performance against Guardiola’s FC Barcelona, winning 3-2 on aggregate with only 10 men on the pitch. Van Gaal’s Bayern defeated Lyon 4-0 in the other semi-final (and got to that point by defeating both Fiorentina and Manchester United 4-4 on away goals).