After falling short to a strong defensive performance by Real Madrid on Saturday, Barcelona hosted the best defence in the world in Simeone’s Atlético Madrid in last night’s Champions League first leg.
In the first clasico since Cruyff’s passing, Zinedine Zidane lead his side to a late win in what was otherwise one of the most meaningless games between the two sides in the past few years. The French coach learned from Benitez’ mistakes and fielded Casemiro as a 3rd midfielder in the centre as their game plan was largely based around control of the midfield battle.
Whilst Bayern Munich lead a 2-team group ahead of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga, Hertha Berlin have quietly been making strong performances and find themselves in 3rd place, holding a 4-point advantage over 4th-placed Schalke. The side from the capital have developed a strong team despite finishing 15th last year – just one place above the relegation play-off position. Throughout this season however, we have seen a significant turnaround in performance under coach Pál Dárdai. In this article, I’ll be aiming to take a closer look at what has seen them hold such a strong position in the table.
Germany hosted England in the last week of international friendlies before EURO 2016. Joachim Löw continued to disregard Marcel Schmelzer’s existence as the World champions started with a back line of Hector, Hummels, Rüdiger and Can. Hodgson selected a much more predictable line-up and Delle Alli was given his second start as an England international.
With the sad passing of one of football’s greatest yesterday, I decided to visit footballia and analyse his European Cup win with a great Barcelona side featuring numerous stars such as Guardiola, Laudrup and Koeman – all of whom would progress onto a coaching career. Their opposition was a talented Sampdoria side who, despite struggling domestically, found themselves in the final and challenged Cruyff’s side well with a squad containing Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli.
Thursday night treated us to the biggest game of the mid-week European fixtures as the top team in England travelled to the second-best team in Germany in what had the potential to be an excellent Europa League match-up. Tuchel elected to field a near-full strength side whilst Pochettino, who seemingly values his chances at a Premier League title more than the value of the Europa League, opted to start with a rather depleted line-up.
After Bayern recorded their 2nd loss of the season to the hands of Mainz, their clash against Borussia Dortmund had some added interest as a Dortmund win would see the Bavarian lead cut to just 2 points. Tuchel took inspiration from his former club’s win and opted for a 5-chain in defence which a number of similarities between the two systems.
Martin Schmidt’s Mainz side continued their tradition of producing excellent results against the Bavarian giants and left the Allianz with a 2-1 win in this mid-week clash. They came into the game on brilliant form with Schmidt leading his side to now 5th place with a system centred around the excellence of Yunus Malli.
After reaching the last 16 of the Europa League, Borussia Dortmund played host to 2nd-bottom Hoffenheim idho have recently gone under the leadership of the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history – 28-year-old Julian Nagelsmann. The away team looked far better than their league position suggested and until the red card (as well as during periods at 10 men) were more than a match for Dortmund. Tuchel’s side again showed some staleness in their game though his mid-game adaptions as well as the Hoffenheim red card brought about a late comeback for the 2nd placed team.
Dortmund made a somewhat lacklustre performance after Casillas’ first own-goal of his career virtually ensured Dortmund’s qualification. Tuchel’s side started the game poorly but managed to score the only goal of the game after Casillas turned an offside Aubameyang shot into his own net, and from that point onward lacked intensity as the side aimed to see the game through with minimal exertion.