PSG vs Barcelona UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Game 1

Starting 11

PSG : GK- Trapp. DF – Meunier, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa. MF – Verratti, Rabiot, Matuidi. FW – Di Maria, Cavani, Draxler. (1-4-3-3)

Barcelona : GK Ter Stegen. DF – Jordi Alba, Umtiti, Pique, Sergi Roberto. MF – Andre Gomes, Busquets, Iniesta. FW – Neymar, Suarez, Messi. (1-4-3-3)

Barca’s high pressing after the kick-off

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In my personal view, it is important to observe the structure carefully first 5 or 10 minutes in order to understand how the team plays which is likely to be the base of the style of play in the match although teams would change the style of play during the match. Above the picture shows that Barca try to defend from the attacking third using somewhat high pressing and you are able to understand Barca’s defensive shape is 1-4-4-2 but clear shortcoming is there is a huge space behind the two central midfielders (Busquets and Iniesta) and Neymar positions a bit high which means Meunier has an advantage to exploit these area.

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When your opposition’s FW(first line in defence) tries to press by using two central strikers, you would better to do build-up play with three players (volante and two center halves) + GK which is common theory. Some teams still try to do three players whose version is without GK due to his lack of ball control and passing skills mostly. PSG is doing well with four players courtesy of Trapp’s exceptional ball control and passing skills and Rabiot was able to discern the situation how to help his teammate. There is 4v2 numerical superiority for PSG which is easy to pass a ball each other to advance as a group or unit. Hopefully, I want Marquinhos to stand a tad backward to create passing lane but he was probably sure Trapp will be successful to pass the ball to his teammate. Kurzawa tries to create enough space for Kimpembe which is theoretically excellent.

Matuidi and Di Maria’s exploitation

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As I mentioned earlier, Barca left somewhat big space between the MF and the DF. It seems that Matuidi and Di Maria who plays as right-side winger would exploited these space on purpose. Matuidi tend to receive a ball in half-space in this match, actually he created a multitude of chances later from his intelligent positioning. In this situation, PSG has an advantage quantitatively again which 3v2 in the left hand side creating triangle. Another outstanding thing is the position of Draxler. he intentionally stays in front of touchline in order to make space for Matuidi. Roberto notices that Matuidi tries to get a ball in vital area however he is not allowed to shift from here to there. Of course, Pique has to stay in his place. It is undoubtedly visible that Iniesta exposed his ineptitude to be situated in the position where he should be. In addition, what I worried about is Umtiti’s positioning. It is obvious the disorganised defensive line from Barca and it looks big oppotunity for PSG. if Drinkwater had a ball and Vardy were instead of Cavani, they would scored easily in the last season.

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Similar situation approximately eight minutes later.

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When Roberto could not bear the attention of French skipper. this is the half-space effect that two players pressing one opposition player simultaneously. What Parisian captain has to do is flick a ball to Draxler who is free in this circumstance as Matuidi’s strong foot is left.

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Another way of making use of AAA is by two central midfielders. When Kimpembe is driving a ball, Rabiot covers his place. I realised Cavani is insinuating to do a diagonal run which is his forte from this photo as he apprehends the importance of blind-side and Umtiti’s blemish to concentrate the ball too much he is in offside position though.

You can find Di Maria’s tendency to be in central area in the match from below passmap by 11tegen11.

What Emery gave a task for Cavani as a first defender is sensible

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I know many tactical genius on Twitter evidently perceived what Unai Emery proffered a individual duty for Uruguayan in the match. Needless to say, Cavani always started to press for CB from Busquets’s position in order to maximise his cover-shadow for Busquets when PSG opted to do high-pressing. When he presses, he obeyed the job to be back in a position just ahead Spaniard even no matter where he was at negative-transition. When PSG chose to retreat to defend, he stays near Busquets. It is not exaggerating that Busquets is a powerhouse for Spanish club when it comes to the place to start a progression in attack. So, preventing a passing lane for Busquets by his cover-shadow is absolutely sagacious. Both wingers mark for full back, matuidi and Verratti marking for central midfielder (Iniesta and Gomes) and Rabiot marks for Messi who often move from right hand side to centre. Theoretically, when PSG selected to retreat, Barca’s both central defender would be free that looks key-factor for Barcelona I guess. Great thing is every PSG players understand this tactics and they pursued it the whole game. It appears that they have decided whether doing high-pressing or retreating by watching Cavani’s movement and the position of the Barca’s CB. If you have a lucid rule of defending, you could easily differentiate how to defend high-pressing or somewhat retreating.

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Apparently, Cavani has been stuck to Busquets. Verratti has been marking for Iniesta.

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Cavani is moving to press for GK whilst Umtiti passed a ball to Ter Stegen. He is still using his cover-shadow for Busquets which resulted to reduce passing channels for German. In fact ball was out of the pitch, then PSG got a throw-in near the goal. Matuidi generated more three chance for PSG from half-space until thirteen minutes in the first half.

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Above picture illustrates when you permitted a pass for Messi who dropped in the centre is unacceptable even if Cavani preserved a direct pass from CB to Busquets. Barca was successful to create a triangle shape in the centre of the pitch, then they progressed comfortably which need to amend for PSG. Robiot was might not aware of the existence of Messi at the time.

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Clear defensive task from Emery. The player who leave the midfielder line is Verratti and Matuidi in my opinion. Other four always stay and be clean horizontally.

Barca’s vulnerability in a negative-transition

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Unprofessional defence from all the Barcelona players. they are keeping ball-watching after a transition from attack to defence. Furthermore, the transition was extraordinarily slow. They don’t recognise even a couple of PSG players who try to utilise their blind-side zone. (left hand side) Luckily, they didn’t concede, but it is palpable that two PSG players are unmarked that there is the high possibility of 1v1 situation if the pass was accurate.

PSG’s first goal

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It is harsh but the cause for PSG’s first goal is unquestionably Neymar. There is a weakness left hand side of Barcelona in terms of defence even if Brazilian plays as his inability to be positioned quickly after losing the ball. He spent a lot of times on tying up his lace on the pitch which is unlike him as he is guileful. PSG attacked from right hand side to gain quantitative superiority due to Barca winger’s absence. Busquets had a lackadaisical approach to his defensive task for covering. If he did a duty to eliminate a diagonal passing lane from Di Maria, they would not gave a free-kick for the League 1 club which produced a first goal.

PSG’s second goal

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Second goal in this game generated from Draxler. What I recognised is Barca did not do a preventitive marking and covering when they possess a ball. In this case, Busquets dropped in between the two CBs. Messi lost a ball near centre circle but no Barca players are in the central channel where is paramount zone after the negative-transition. they need to think of defence even when they have a ball in order to regain a ball quickly and effectively. Umtiti influenced a PSG second goal as his knack of watching the ball too much which is necessary for him to rectify as his bad habit and crucial weakness for CB.

Barcelona’s panacea for the success of build-up and progression

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I mulled over and found the solution during the match how to break the first line of PSG. In my view, both CBs are essential to do because, PSG players leave them but, if one CB drives into around middle third, they would press for him which could be free one central midfielder from Spanish side. On the other hand, if they don’t press one CB, Barca’s full back and Central midfielder have to decoy a near opposition in tandem then, they would be successful to make a passing lane for striker or winger from CB. Above photo displays one of the exemplar. Enrique instructed Umtiti to pass a ball to Suarez by using his left hand. Both CBs tonight was not active to drive a ball although they have the ability to do that.

My thoughts

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I think there is no chance for Iniesta to play the game as a member of stating eleven which is transition-oriented. If the opposition is like a bottom of the league, he would be benefit and play effectively for the team though. Both pictures completely express the reality. He is my favourite player but he has no stamina to play the tough game throughout. In my idea without certain evidence, Iniesta and Busquets are not the player who plays as 1-4-4-2 of central midfielder. Why Enrique changed the shape also, Neymar has to defend as a left side midfielder…  My objective opinion is some people forget they are old, so it is difficult to expect Pep’s Barcelona football in this squad. Change is indispensable, same way is not continue eternally.

According to fourfourtwo, Barcelona was recorded 501 passes that is more completion than PSG’s 363 however, the best pass combination is Pique – Umtiti which is not important as they are not including vertical passes. It seems that they were struggling to carry the ball out from defensive third as build-up play.

My personal man of the match in this game is Meunier. I was so impressed with his intelligence, tactical understanding and hard working. He was conducive to win at beautiful night. He always exploited space behind by the courtesy of Neymar incompetence of his defence and Di Maria’s tendency to play centrally in this game. Above picture shows that he assisted fourth goal for PSG by Cavani.

If I were Enrique, I would changed Umtiti for Mathieu first and obviously Iniesta which is agree with him, decision is a little late though. I wonder he could understand Umtiti in this game is in bad form.

Draxler surpassed Roberto in qualitative superiority at 1v1 situation. In addition, I have been pondering switching the position between Di Maria and Draxler after the corner around 34 mins is whether coincidence or intentional strategy from Parisians.

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