Klopp’s Liverpool side hosted Guardiola’s Manchester City in the final league encounter of 2016 on Saturday evening. The opposing managers’ renewed acquaintance after clashes in Germany was one factor that ensured the game was eagerly anticipated. To add a further edge to the game, Liverpool were one point ahead of City coming into the game and the winner would take the title of Chelsea’s main challengers.
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11 games, 11 wins, 25 goals scored, 2 goals conceded, from 8th place and 8 points off the pace to 6 points clear at the top of the table. This is, of course, Chelsea’s record since Conte changed to a 3-4-3 formation. These results are impressive regardless, however, they become even more impressive when the quality of the opponents are taken into account. On this stellar run the Londoners have beaten, Leicester, Man Utd, Spurs, Everton, Southampton and Man City amongst other tough challenges. Formations are, of course, merely a starting point; this piece seeks to analyse the finer details of Conte’s system and why it has been so successful.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City hosted Arsenal in the Premier League’s 17th game week on Sunday evening. City came into the game with criticism surrounding the team with the performance in the defeat at Leicester in particular raising doubts amongst the media over Pep’s suitability to English football. Arsenal however had been in strong form and were eager to show the midweek defeat at Goodison Park was a mere blip and not the start of an annual meltdown.
Guardiola’s Manchester City hosted Conte’s Chelsea in arguably the most eagerly anticipated Premier League clash of the season thus far. There were several reasons behind the excitement; with the coaches being two of the strongest tacticians in the league and the two sides being firmly in the title race. What followed was a high class, high intensity football game befitting of its expectations.
Napoli hosted Internazionale in Serie A’s first gameweek 15 fixture. With the stature of the two clubs this has often been a top of the table clash. However, the two sides came into this game in 7th and 8th spots respectively. Milik-less Napoli have struggled to utilise some of their usual offensive approach play, and have thus experienced an inconsistent attacking output in addition to a generous defence. Inter on the other hand have had inconsistent results from the start, with highs such as a home victory over Juventus marred by defeats to the likes of Cagliari.
Fresh from their midweek defeat to Manchester City, Enrique’s Barcelona travelled to the Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday night for an eagerly anticipated clash with Sevilla. An away win would see the Catalan side close the gap on leaders Real Madrid to 2 points, however they were struggling in the absence of Iniesta and Pique in particular. As for the hosts life under Sampaoli was bliss and victory would leave them 3 points off the pace and dreaming of a title challenge.
Napoli travelled to the home of the champions for the eagerly anticipated clash with rivals Juventus on Saturday evening. While adjusting to life without Milik the Neapolitan side experienced a wobble but have since begun to stabilise with consecutive wins over Crotone and Empoli. As for Juventus a strong start to the season was slightly punctured by defeat to Milan last week, but a midweek win over Sampdoria ensured their 2 point cushion at the summit.
Klopp’s Liverpool hosted Mourinho’s United at Anfield on Monday night in the highest profile Premier league clash of the weekend. With their blistering, free scoring form Liverpool headed into the game as heavy favourites against a labouring United side. However the fans and media alike were all too aware of Mourinho’s propensity to upset the odds to write off the Red devils.
Roger Schmidt’s Leverkusen hosted Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund at the BayArena on Saturday evening. The clash pitted two of the more progressive tacticians in world football against each other with what many consider to be similarly talented squads. Leverkusen were searching for their first consecutive league wins of the season whilst Dortmund were looking for their 4th consecutive league win.
Guardiola’s City travelled to Wales in their 10th game of the season as they looked to make it a perfect 10 wins from 10 at the start of the season. After their previous league game Guardiola credited Bournemouth as the Premier League side who had caused them the most trouble with their use of the ball and Swansea could be expected to pose a similar threat. Swansea meanwhile were aiming to avoid back to back league losses and a 5 game winless streak as they aimed to ease their relegation fears.