Barcelona 3-1 Milan: Guardiola goes with a 3-3-4

“Barcelona weren’t at their best, but were fairly comfortable after scoring their third. Pep Guardiola brought in Isaac Cuenca to stretch the play on the flank and used Cesc Fabregas in a free role, with Seydou Keita and Alexis Sanchez dropping out. Max Allegri recalled Ignazio Abate at right-back, but otherwise kept the same team from last week. This was an odd game – Barcelona predictably dominated possession but struggled to create chances in open play…yet still scored goals and weren’t particularly troubled after the third goal, in the 53rd minute.” Zonal Marking

The Question: what marks Pep Guardiola out as a great coach?
“There is a strangely persistent idea that Pep Guardiola is not a great coach, that a great side somehow fell together beneath him for which he bears about as much responsibility for it as, say, the man who turns the lights on at the Louvre does for the Mona Lisa. He has fine players of course, but you wonder how many of them would truly prosper away from the Camp Nou. Even the greatest of them, Lionel Messi, looks a different player when he turns out for Argentina.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Champions League review: FC Barcelona 3 – 1 AC Milan: round two! *ding ding*
“Round two of the quarter-finals and plenty of drama in this leg too. This wasn’t Barça’s best performance of the season by any means, but they got the job done and yet more haters crawled out of the woodwork. Hi, guys. Barça’s starting XI was: VV, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Puyol – Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta – Messi, Cesc and Cuenca. I’m sure there were a few eyebrows raised, but this was a welcome relief compared to the lineup for the first leg against Milan.” The Offside


Benfica’s Brazilian import-export connection

“If they were unable to do it in front of their own fans, can Benfica manage to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this Wednesday? Some might make the point that they were hardly at home last week. The Lisbon giants kicked off without a single Portuguese player – and with an extraordinary complement of nine South Americans in their starting line-up, plus another on the bench (alongside a Brazilian-born Spaniard), and one more ruled out by injury. And that is not even the half of it. Benfica have a further 17 South American players out on loan with other teams.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Dazed and Confused: A Liverpool Nosedive

“I’ve been saying for many months that I don’t quite know what to make of this Liverpool side. And it only gets more confusing with the passing of time. I always felt that I knew where I was with Rafa Benítez’s Liverpool, even if the ride could still get bumpy. And I certainly knew where I was with Hodgson’s: desperate to parachute off. (The Croydonian was a successful Cessna pilot who looked terrified and confused at the controls of a Boeing 747. What does this lever do? – ah, drop Daniel Agger in place of Soto Kygriakos.) This is different.” Tomkins Times

The astonishing career of Giorgio Chinaglia

“The saddening death of an old acquaintance Giorgio Chinaglia evoked so many memories. It was an astonishing career, begun obscurely in South Wales where he once was obliged (by club fines) to steal milk bottles from doorsteps for his breakfast, to triumphs with Lazio and the 1974 Campionato thanks largely to his goals, to disgrace in the subsequent World Cup in Europe.” World Soccer – Brian Glanville

Giorgio Chinaglia 1947-2012
“The legendary Lazio, Italy and New York Cosmos striker Giorgio Chinaglia has died, aged 65. Chinaglia was a member of the infamous yet hugely talented 1974 scudetto winning Lazio side, where his fiery temper and penchant for mayhem were not out of place. Having played most of his early football with Swansea (he had been brought up in Wales), Chinaglia was considered no great loss to the Welsh side as he headed home for national service and Serie C club Massese in 1966.” In Bed With Maradona

Juventus 3-0 Napoli: 3-5-2 v 3-4-3

“Juventus were by far the better side – they move two points behind leaders Milan. Antonio Conte, as expected, moved to 3-5-2 with Paolo De Ceglie the left wing-back. There was a surprise upfront, where Alessandro Matri was left out, and Marco Borriello partnered Mirko Vucinic. Walter Mazzarri’s first XI is always easy to predict, and there were no surprises in the usual 3-4-3 shape. The reverse fixture was goal-crazy (although a fascinating tactical battle too) – this was much tighter, and less interesting than it should have been. It’s rare to get a formation battle like this – although Conte has generally played a three-man defence against a three-man defence – having done so twice against Udinese, and now twice against Napoli.” Zonal Marking

A League Built On Fear

“The Russian Second Division can be a hard place for a footballer to ply his trade. Pitiful levels of support, matches in stadia which barely qualify for the term, and even the regionalisation of the league into five zones fails to compensate for the huge distances often travelled in the build-up to matchdays. With salaries understandably low in the country’s lowest professional league, it is little surprise that teams struggle to keep squads together between seasons, and that clubs on the periphery struggle to stay afloat – when the likes of First Division sides Luch-Energiya Vladivostok and Baltika Kaliningrad are fighting to survive, prospects are bleak for teams further down the pyramid.” In Bed With Maradona