Tactical Analysis: Juventus 2 – 2 Bayern Munich

Juventus’ static 4-4-2 shape vs. Bayern’s dynamic shape.
“Massimiliano Allegri played his 4-4-2 basic formation. As usual, when his side settled into low-block defense, the shape would be transpositioned into a 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2-0. Early in the first-half, in their initial defensive shape, Juventus tended to let their forward-duo press without always establishing strong support-shape behind them. This pressing, in turn, allowed Bayern to bypass and progress forward. Juve’s zonal marking strongly focused on the central area, which provided space on the flank for Bayern, but Juventus was happy to push Bayern wide and trap them on the flanks.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Manchester City on verge of first UCL quarterfinal; PSV holds Atletico

“Manchester City took a major step towards its first UEFA Champions League quarterfinal with a 3-1 victory away to Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of its round-of-16 tie. City, much improved after its struggles in recent weeks, took a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to goals from Sergio Aguero and David Silva. Vitaliy Buyalskyi pulled one back with a deflected shot just before the hour mark, but a superb goal from Yaya Toure–who had earlier missed a golden chance–restored the two-goal margin in the final minute. In Eindhoven, PSV was reduced to 10 men with more than a quarter of the game still to play with a red card to Gaston Pereiro, but the Eredivisie leader held out against Atletico Madrid for a 0-0 draw.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid forward appears unhappy with team-mates

“Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo said ‘if we were all at my level maybe we would be leaders’ after his side’s 1-0 derby defeat by Atletico Madrid. A first defeat under Zinedine Zidane leaves Real nine points behind leaders Barcelona, and four below Atletico. Real were missing Gareth Bale and Marcelo through injury, while Karim Benzema was replaced at half-time.” BBC

Zidane Can’t Save Real From Losing Another Madrid Derby
“When Zinedine Zidane was a player, he could raise his game like few other men to breach almost any defense. As a coach, he no longer has that power. And in his own stadium, with a team of players as expensive as any on earth, the futility of that predicament clearly tortures him. Zidane railed to no effect as Real Madrid lost, 1-0, on Saturday to Atlético Madrid in their derby match.” NY Times

Barcelona trio’s selflessness differentiates them from the rest

“The turning point of Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Arsenal came in the 70th minute of the match, Suarez to Neymar to Messi and inevitably to the back of the net. A swift move that not only put Barcelona well on their way to yet another quarter-final but showed just how good these front three are and why everybody is raving about them.” backpagefootball

Manchester United and the problem of moving on from an all-powerful leader

“The question isn’t even ‘if’. It isn’t even really ‘when’ any longer: it’s who comes next. Perhaps an FA Cup defeat at Shrewsbury on Monday would have ended Louis van Gaal’s reign at Old Trafford this week; perhaps a Europa League exit against Midtjylland on Thursday night will. But nobody really thinks Van Gaal will still be Manchester United manager next season.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

“ANDREW BOULTON casts his sceptical gaze towards the heroism, hubris, horror and hilarity of statues in football. Spend any length of time in Nottingham’s Old Market Square and you will see what we will politely refer to as ‘sights’. Teenage skateboarders tumbling churlishly against the concrete, their drastically over-exposed underpants providing little genuine protection against pavement burns and pigeon sick. Maudlin office workers weeping quietly into jacket potatoes so enormous they could briefly be mistaken for human heads. I even once saw a man angrily thrashing a phone box with a fishing pole.” Football Pink

Cubas shows ‘It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary’

“While some players take the easy option and go hiding when they chips are down, pint-sized Boca Juniors midfielder Adrian Cubas showed courage beyond his teenage years to do what is expected of him by his team – the simple things. All fans have seen it on a frequent basis – after the team has scored, suddenly it is a different game. The ball is zipping around all over the field, the moves are flowing and suddenly, after seeming a desperately complicated affair before the deadlock was broken, football now looks like a simple game. It is the same players, on the same pitch, in the same game against the same opposition, but the whole atmosphere has changed.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Five Bundesliga youngsters that Premier League teams will be looking to sign

“In an era, where the total net worth of squads in the BPL (4.4billion Euros) is double that of the Bundesliga teams (2.38 billion), and the third richest/most valuable clubs in Germany (Leverkusen and Schalke are around 200 million Euros) would barely crack the top 10 in England (West Ham and Newcastle are tied for 9th at 182 mil each) moving to the Premier League after one or two great seasons has increasingly become the norm for Bundesliga talents.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Norway’s new golden generation?

“For those of us who remember the 90s as the golden age of football, Norway’s ‘Drillo’ tactics with long balls played up to John Carew and Tore Andre and Jostein Flo stands out as a nostalgic example of how much the game we love has changed. Gone are the days of target men and long balls, gone are the days of yellow-shoed penalties and beating Brazil, thus gone are the golden days of Norwegian football. The world has moved on. Manchester United discovered Cristiano Ronaldo and everyone forgot about the Flo brothers. Football the world over suddenly became all about pace, dribbles and impossible free kicks.” backpagefootball

Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona player ratings: Messi double puts visitors firmly in the driving seat

“Arsenal’s Champions League campaign appears to have once again fallen at the second hurdle. It was always going to be tough against Luis Enrique’s Barcelona and to be fair to the Gunners they put up a fantastic effort against the Spanish giants. For large portions of the game Arsenal actually kept the Catalans very quiet and can be proud of their efforts, but a pacey counter-attack allowed Lionel Messi to open the scoring in the second half.” Squawka (Video)

UCL: Messi, Barcelona top Arsenal; Juventus comes back on Bayern

“There was late drama in both Champions League ties Tuesday. Lionel Messi continued to haunt Arsenal as Barcelona won 2-0 on a pair of Messi goals in London. Meanwhile, in Turin, Bayern Munich threw away a 2-0 lead and settled for a 2-2 draw against Juventus, though the German side will bring an away-goals edge with it to the return leg next month.” SI

Juventus 2-2 Bayern player ratings: Allegri’s men come from behind in last-16 thriller

“A first-half tactical masterclass from Pep Guardiola saw Bayern Munich dominate Juventus in their own back yard and they take two away goals back to the Allianz Arena. The German side looked comfortable to leave Turin with a commanding win but Massimiliano Allegri’s side’s second half resurgence has assured that there is still life in the tie.” Squawka (Video)

Book review: Calcio’s Greatest Forwards by George Rinaldi

“Serie A has often been the toughest of proving grounds for even the most gifted of strikers – just ask Dennis Bergkamp or Ian Rush. So for 21-year-old debutant George Rinaldi to take on the task of slimming down a fairly comprehensive list of Italian football’s greatest forwards and chronicling their goalscoring feats for his first book was admirable indeed” Football Pink, amazon

Manchester City’s poor form has club in downward spiral

“It was a risk the Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini knew he was taking. Fielding a significantly weakened side in the FA Cup fifth-round tie against Chelsea on Sunday effectively sacrificed the competition to ensure first-teamers are fully rested before Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 tie away against Dynamo Kyiv. If City gets a positive result there and then beats Liverpool in the League Cup final next Sunday it will probably be regarded as a price worth paying. But that’s a huge if.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Porto | Dominant hosts ease to the win

“Over 65,000 were in attendance for this clash between two giants with extremely diverse footballing cultures. The hosts came into the tie in fine form having won four of their previous five fixtures and Porto arrived to the famous Signal Iduna Park stadium in high spirits after picking up a somewhat surprising 2-1 win in the back garden of their greatest rivals Benfica. The Portuguese club fell just one point short of the last 16 in the Champions League yet they have struggled domestically, sitting in 3rd place in the Primeira Liga.” Outside of the Boot

When Pele and the 1966 World Cup Brazil team came to Lymm

“Previously unseen photos of Brazil’s 1966 World Cup squad relaxing in a rural Cheshire hotel are to go on show. An exhibition is being held at the Lymm Hotel where the world’s most glamorous football team was based for the tournament, 50 years ago. It includes images of football greats Pele and Garrincha and their team-mates at ease in the hotel grounds.” BBC

How Arsenal must play in order to beat Barcelona in the Champions League

“Arsenal’s clash with Barcelona has been billed as another contest between two sides in a continual series, but it’s actually been half a decade since the sides previously met. It was so long ago that Cesc Fabregas was still with Arsenal — never mind him joining Barcelona, being turned down by Arsene Wenger when he wanted to return to England and then winning the Premier League with Chelsea.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

Tactical Analysis: PSG 2-1 Chelsea | Movement of PSG midfield decisive as Lucas and Di Maria prove influential

“After witnessing the drama which unfolded from the last two ties that occurred between these two sides in the knockout rounds, this fixture was highly anticipated by many neutrals as well as both sets of fans. And it did not disappoint. Laurent Blanc’s men came into the game as slight favourites, on the back of their frankly ridiculous form in their domestic league (24 points ahead of second placed Monaco) and the firepower of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edinson Cavani. Judging also by Chelsea’s dire form in the league, PSG looked the most likely victors at the Parc des Princes. However, Chelsea had been experiencing a mini-revival following the re-introduction of Guus Hiddink in the hot seat.” Outside of the Boot

Entering the world of Liga MX

Mexican fans at a friendly between the Seattle Sounders F.C. and Club Tijuana of the Liga MX. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)
“What does it take to get one to watch a football league? Apparently quite a lot. Despite being one of two countries that borders my home country of the United States this intrepid reporter is finally getting into Mexican soccer. It might seem like I might be getting into Mexican soccer a bit late. After all, Mexican soccer matches have been shown on Spanish language television and radio for decades in the United States and Mexican soccer players have made their impact on local club teams such as former Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago Fire goalkeeper Jorge Campos and former Chicago Fire Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Although many young goalkeepers in the United States tried to emulate Campos by wearing fuchsia jerseys (may those pictures never get out) and make endeavors on the attack, very few became followers of Liga MX to the extent they do with other foreign leagues.” backpagefootball (Video)

How Mauricio Pochettino gave Tottenham the Premier League’s best defence

“Tottenham have the best defensive record in the Premier League. It’s not a sentence we’re used to hearing. Not since 1951 have Spurs finished a campaign with the best defensive record of the division they’ve been in. It’s not the Spurs way. They’re supposed to be about moments of occasional attacking genius set against a background of general flakiness. Not any more.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The Downfall of a Russian Soccer Team

Among other problems, Dynamo Moscow has been losing many of its best players, like Aleksandr Kokorin (right), shown here in a 2013 match against CSKA.
“The Russian soccer team Dynamo Moscow has its roots in a factory club that was founded in 1887, at the Morozov mill, on the city’s outskirts. In the spring of 1923, the club was co-opted by Vladimir Lenin’s feared secret police, the Cheka, and given its current name. (The playwright Maxim Gorky is credited with coining the club motto, ‘Sila v Dvizhenii,’ or ‘Strength in Motion.’)* By the mid-thirties, Moscow was home to five major teams, four of which represented different arms of the Soviet state: CDKA, now CSKA, was the team of the Red Army; Dynamo, the secret police; Lokomotiv, the state railways; and Torpedo was the club of the city’s sprawling Torpedo-ZiL automobile factory. The exception was Spartak Moscow, founded by the Young Communist League and the local soccer hero Nikolai Starostin, who named his club after the gladiator who revolted against Roman rule. Spartak forged an identity as ‘the people’s club,’ which is why, even today, it has more fans at its games than any of its rivals can boast.” New Yorker

The Argument: Time to Stop Assuming Football Fans are all Thugs

“A few days ago, the Football Supporters’ Federation who, along with doing great campaigning work on issues like safe standing and ticket prices, have a solicitor who tries to help fans who get into trouble with the law, tweeted thanks to a legal firm ‘for successfully representing two fans in civil claim against police for false imprisonment & assault. Compensation paid.’ It was the latest in a long line of similar cases. Sometimes supporters have contravened the rules, on other occasions the problem has been caused by over-zealous stewarding. Often they are situations that should be sorted out without resorting to the courts. A brief review of how football supporters are treated by this country’s legal system, and their own clubs, reveals a catalogue of unfairness that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other context.” The Two Unfortunates

Tactical Analysis – Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 6

“Neither manager had any major selection dilemmas before the game. Garde was without several players but only a couple of them were genuinely missed – his only natural holding midfielder Sanchez and the target man Gestede. Interestingly though, the French manager changed the shape from his usual narrow 4-1-2-3/4-3-2-1 to a 4-4-1-1 here despite naming the same starting XI as in the last game against Norwich.” Tomkins Times

Super Sunday, Predictions And Palace: Premier League Round Up

“Super Sunday came and went as a thrilling spectacle for the non-partisan bystander. The two games featuring the top four contenders–who by any reasonable estimation have all but sealed their places–were full of contentious decisions, tension, storylines and thrills. Even the most stone-hearted fan could surely not have been slightly warmed by the returning Danny Welbeck and his winning contribution and significantly, Arsenal’s late winner kept the four teams within a six point range. Everything about Arsenal’s title challenge is reliant on squad fitness so from that perspective a deep bench for the first time since around November was a huge bonus.” Stats Bomb

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-0 Napoli | Defensive Solidity and Formational Fluidity

“Juventus and Napoli both came into this match in incredible form. Napoli had won 8 straight in the Serie A, including two 5-1 victories. Juventus, on the other hand, had won 14 straight, the streak propelling them back into the title race after a dismal start to the season. With these two teams sitting on top of the table, and Napoli ahead of Juve by just two points, this match could be the deciding moment in the Scudetto race. Although the match was a stalemate until Juve scored with 3 minutes to go, it was a captivating tactical battle, as Sarri and Allegri shut out each other’s teams.” Outside of the Boot

James McCarthy: The Irish Hero who is a controversial figure in Scotland

“If you ever visit the Irish National Team’s website, you’ll notice one peculiar element to the FAI’s online shop. One entire section of the store is dedicated to Everton FC shirts and gear. Despite being an English club, Irish football fans follow Everton closely and have a fondness towards the club. This is because of the Irish players at Everton now and in the past, and Ireland’s connection to the city of Liverpool. Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson, and formerly Aidan McGeady are some of the notable Irish stars who have played for Everton. But the most notorious Irishman at the Merseyside club is none other than rising star James McCarthy. This is because of the fact that he wasn’t born in Ireland, but their next door neighbors Scotland.” Outside of the Boot

The limelight’s on Leicester, but what about Spurs?

“Yet another resolute display by Spurs saw them claim all three points against a solid Watford side and emerge as Leicester’s closest rivals in the race for the Premier league title. The win moves Spurs into second, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, but still 5 points behind the leaders Leicester. The match was a testament to the in – depth strength and quality that Spurs possess as Mauricio Pochettino made four changes to the side which dispatched of Norwich in midweek.” The Incompetent Football Fan

Danny Welbeck’s last-gasp effort gives Arsenal win over 10-man Leicester

“Not so fast, Foxes. Just when Leicester City thought they had escaped intact from a muscular, occasionally desperate rearguard second half at the Emirates, Arsenal pulled them back in. Claudio Ranieri’s team produced a spiky, tenacious display of deep-lying defence having been reduced to 10 men by Danny Simpson’s slightly soft sending off on 54 minutes. Ultimately they were reeled in by a thrilling final burst as Arsenal turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win with goals from the substitutes Theo Walcott and, most cinematically of all, the returning Danny Welbeck in the final seconds.” Guardian

Scout Report: Miguel Silva | The youngster who bears the king on his chest

“In an extremely business minded football world, it’s extremely rare to see players with a deep connection to the city and club that they play for. And it’s justifiable too – everyone knows that the sport we all love is a job just like any other for the ones who play and coach. But everyone also misses the Maldinis and Zanettis that passed through football, and every fan idolizes the Buffons and Tottis of today.” Outside of the Boot

New pretenders to the Scottish throne

“It’s a sign of the times up in Scotland when nobody seems all that bothered about one of the most newsworthy deals of the January transfer window. Rangers Football Club have finally found a near namesake of the Dutchman they’ve been singing about for decades. And this is no Pierre van Hoojidonk, or Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Young Billy King has joined the ranks at Ibrox, after decades of his namesake featuring in tattoos, verse, and T-shirts on the terraces. Billy King’s signing has been pushed out of the headlines by the performances of some of Scotland’s lesser lights and former giants rising up again to the froth of the Premier League.” Football Pink

One kick can make all the difference in the cruel world of football

Rodrigo Lopez, left, and teammate Juan Patino, of Paraguay's Guarani, react after failing to classify for the next round, at the end of a Copa Libertadores soccer game with Ecuador's Independiente del Valle in Asuncion, Paraguay, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
“It will surely be a traumatic memory for Socceroos fans, but I’ve always loved a piece of Australian radio commentary when Azizi scored that famous goal for Iran in the 1998 World Cup play off. It is a classic case of a man caught up in conflicting impulses; the professional, needing to explain the events – and the personal, that of a fan devastated by a strike that deprived Australia of what had seemed certain qualification for France.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Liverpool put six past sorry Aston Villa as home fans turn ire on Lerner

“Liverpool performed to a backdrop of fans walking out en masse for a second weekend in succession though it was not inflated ticket prices that sparked the exodus this time but the sheer ineptitude of Aston Villa. No easy games in the Premier League? Nonsense. This was a surrender and Liverpool inflicted a St Valentine’s Day massacre from which the division’s bottom club may not recover.” Guardian

Spain’s Liga, a Perilous Cauldron for Managers

“Outside of the glamour and the riches of both clubs in Madrid and F.C. Barcelona, managing in the Spanish league is about the struggle to survive. Late Saturday, after Valencia eked out a nervous 2-1 victory over Espanyol, the two head coaches — Valencia’s Gary Neville and Espanyol’s Constantin Galca — found one another on the sidelines. Their handshake turned briefly into a sympathetic embrace between opponents who are both fighting to keep their jobs — and to keep their teams in La Liga. As players, Neville, 40, and Galca, 43, appeared in over a thousand top-level games. They know what it is like to step out into Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, where little more than a decade ago, the roar of the home crowd could make the cavernous concrete bowl throb with excitement as fans cheered on a team that was among the best in Europe. The old stadium still is one of Spain’s most evocative venues, and the crowd still numbers about 50,000 per game.” NY Times

Youngest Bundesliga coach checks-in at Hoffenheim

“Julian Nagelsmann, who has yet to pass his coaching qualifications, has become the youngest Bundesliga head coach in history, after the 28-year old replaced Huub Stevens at struggling Hoffenheim. Previously, the youngest coach in league history was Klaus-Dieter Ochs, who took over the coaching reins at Hamburger SV in 1970 at the age of 30. Nagelsmann, a youth coach at Hoffenheim, had agreed in October last year to take over the club next season, signing a three-year contract.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Mainz’s magical mystery ride continues against disappointing Schalke

“November 28th 2015. It was the last time the duo of Yoshinori Muto or Yunus Malli have scored for 7th place Mainz 05, which one would think would be a problem, seeing that they had combined for 15 of the teams 20 goals up to that point. Since then, Mainz have won 4 games and taken 13 points from 7 matches, scoring 7 goals while conceding 5. Five of those goals came courtesy of wingers Jairo Samperio and Christian Clemens (2 from the Spaniard and 1 from the German was enough to see off HSV in early December). The other two: Julian Baumgartlinger and Gaetan Bussmann both scored their first career Bundesliga goals this Friday night to defeat Schalke 04 2-1 in a wild game at the Coface Arena.” Bundesliga Fanatic (Video)

Piast Gliwice – Poland’s version of Leicester City, hoping to become unlikely champions

“We all love a good underdog story. It’s probably why we are all so encapsulated by Leicester City’s brilliant form in the Premiership. Things aren’t too dissimilar in the Ekstraklasa, Poland’s top flight division. An unsatisfactory start to the season by some of the big teams – namely Wisła Kraków & Lech Poznań – combined with an exuberant push from the smaller teams has paved the way for an unlikely leader at the top of the table during the Winter break – Piast Gliwice, who sit five points clear of 2nd placed Legia Warsaw.It all seems hard to believe for the minnows from Gliwice who have spent so many years in the depths of the Polish footballing pyramid.” backpagefootball

Arsenal must show they are not prisoners of Arsène Wenger’s stubbornness

“Arsène Wenger is 66. He cannot go on forever. He has not won a league title for 12 years and while a championship would offer redemption of a kind, the second half of his reign is in danger of being regarded by history as a time of drift. Deep down, he must know, as everybody else does, that Arsenal may never get a better chance to win a league title than they have this season as rivals falter. Sunday could be decisive.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Crystal Palace – Mind Over Money

“Despite a fair degree of managerial upheaval, the 2014/15 season turned out just fine for Crystal Palace, as they finished in 10th place in the Premier League, an improvement from 11th the previous year. Tony Pulis unexpectedly resigned just two days before the first game and was replaced by Neil Warnock who returned to the club for a second spell as manager. This didn’t work out very well, so in early January the Eagles brought in former Palace player Alan Pardew, who guided the club to the upper half of the table.” The Swiss Ramble

Leicester City – the New Romantics?

“Romance died in the Premier League on Sunday 27th April 2014. That was the afternoon Liverpool rested on top of the division, needing only a point at home to Chelsea to keep the advances of Manchester City at bay. Fuelled by the passion of Steven Gerrard and the brilliance of Luis Suarez, Liverpool had surged ahead of the pack on the back of eleven straight victories. The Gods of Football had decided that Stevie G, Anfield legend, would have the fairytale ending to a career that had so far been missing a Premier League medal. Significantly too, this would come in the year and months of Hillsborough’s 25th anniversary. After two decades, the natural order of British football was to be restored. The pretenders to the throne had been swept aside one by one.” Football Pink

Leicester City keep getting better as Premier League title race heats up

“We should no longer be surprised by Leicester’s continued excellent form, but the manner with which they defeated previous title favourites Manchester City on Saturday was quite staggering. Having taken the lead following the game’s first significant incident, Leicester continued to counter-attack dangerously and only looked under serious pressure in the final 10 minutes, perhaps when they thought the game was already won. Is complacency really going to be the factor that allows other sides back into the title race?” ESPN – Michael Cox

Familiar Story for Thai Soccer as an Election Prompts ‘a Civil War’

“Surawut Maharom was looking stressed. His job had seemed simple when he had first arrived: to oversee an election on Thursday to choose a new president of the Football Association of Thailand. But nothing is simple when it comes to soccer in Thailand. ‘This is a civil war,’ Surawut said. ‘It’s the most difficult case that I’ve dealt with.’ In October, FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, dismissed the executive committee of the Thai soccer association after its president, Worawi Makudi, was suspended pending an ethics investigation.” NT Times

Scout Report: Moussa Dembele | French Striker lighting up the Championship

“The last two seasons haven’t been very memorable for Fulham FC. They first got relegated from the Premier League after a 19th place finish, and their 13 year stay in the top flight was suddenly over. For a London based club like Fulham that has a fair amount of resources, relegation was an embarrassment. But then came last season, where they went from favorites to return to the Premier League, to being in the bottom half of the Championship all while losing wonder kid Patrick Roberts to Manchester City. Clearly Fulham haven’t had many positives in the last two years but there is positive that does surface from the pool of negativity: his name is Moussa Dembele and he is lighting up the Championship this season.” Outside of the Boot

Atlético Madrid Without the Ball

“The famous analyst Leo Tolstoy once eloquently stated ‘Every great attacking team is pretty much the same; every team that isn’t great at attacking is not-great in their own, unique way.’ Powerful and flowing words. Why is this? Mainly because our statistical understanding of soccer is mainly shaped by the team with the ball. We can measure most of what teams do with the ball and while 10 years from now we will look back on the rudimentary stats and conclusions we are reaching with amusement, we are least on a track that will lead us to a robust understanding of the game. When teams don’t have the ball we are still generally foraging in the dark. It’s not easy to get stats that correlate at even a .4 level while attacking stats correlate at .7 or more routinely. This makes not-great attacking teams often fuzzily look somewhat similar.” Stats Bomb

How will Pep Guardiola assess Manchester City’s current squad?

“Predicting Pep Guardiola’s assessment of Manchester City’s current squad is a trickier task than might be expected. Across his time in charge at Barcelona and Bayern Munich there are common themes and obvious concepts he insists upon — the simple concept of possession football being the most obvious example — but his favoured type of player has varied dramatically. It’s worth remembering, for example, that when Guardiola took charge of Bayern three years ago, the consensus was that he’d struggle to find a place for Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben — wingers rather than the wide forwards with whom he’d worked at Barcelona.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Leicester 2 Liverpool 0: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

“With Leicester not having any major injuries and Liverpool rotating heavily for their FA Cup game, both teams’ starting XIs were predictable. There were no surprises in Ranieri’s or Klopp’s selection decisions. The Foxes continued with their regular starting XI with Okazaki once again preferred as Vardy’s support up front in their usual 4-4-2 formation. Meanwhile, the Reds welcomed back every player that was rested in the West Ham game on Saturday with Lovren keeping his place at centre-back to resume his partnership with Sakho. Interestingly, Klopp decided to go 4-2-3-1 but with Henderson on the right flank.” Tomkins Times

Jürgen Klopp – A cup final achieved, but how is he really doing?

“The arrival of Jürgen Klopp at Anfield sparked a frenzy of optimism amongst Liverpool fans with some even believing they could claim the title. A promising 0-0 draw in his first game in charge and impressive away wins against Manchester City, Chelsea and Southampton might have given reds fans fuel for the fire. Despite those impressive away wins, Liverpool have also registered some abysmal performances in the losses against Crystal Palace, West Ham and Watford and were second best against high-flying Leicester City on Tuesday night. All things considered, it is fair to say Liverpool still have a long way to go before being considered genuine title contenders.” backpagefootball

Foreign Players Rule: Discrimination in football?

“The club versus country debate has become a major discussion in modern football, and at the heart of the debate is foreign player rules. Foreign players generally increase the standard of clubs and the league as a whole, but reduce the number of domestic players receiving first-team football, potentially decreasing the quality of the national team. The vast majority of football leagues across the world limit the amount of foreign players allowed per club, with various rules from simple restrictions on numbers of non-domestic players to the Premier League’s home grown rule. But are these rules fair on the players? Are they even legal? Using my area of expertise, Mexico, as a base, I evaluate foreign player restrictions.” Outside of the Boot

Why FIFA should hit Mexico with harsher penalties for ‘puto’ chants

“Two years later, FIFA has finally fined Mexico for fans chanting puto at games. I already explained back in 2014 why this term is offensive and heterosexist. Yes, lots of Mexico fans say they don’t mean it “that way,” but recall the early 1990s when Americans used the word ‘gay’ to mean ‘stupid’? Yeah, that was offensive. It still is. Puto is no different. The LGBTQ community in Mexico finds the term offensive, has made that point well known, and the so-called ‘tradition’ is less than two decades old. It needs to go and the time is ripe to make it happen. Still, one problem remains: FIFA’s impotency.” Fusion

Player Ratings: Chelsea 1-1 Man Utd: Diego Costa snatches a point in injury time

“It was a fixture that neither side could, in reality, afford to lose. Manchester United headed to Chelsea knowing a win was necessary if they were to keep touch with the top four in the Premier League. For the Blues losing this match could go far in undoing all the good work that had see last season’s league champions pull away from the relegation zone.” Squawka

Tactical Analysis: Napoli 5-1 Empoli | Pressing resistance and half space switches

“Sarri’s table-topping Napoli met his former side Empoli and throughout the match Sarri’s influence/signature was evident on both sides. Right from the kick off routine to the way they invited and manipulated pressure before using it to their advantage. This made for a highly intriguing encounter with Napoli eventually making their superiority count with a 5-1 win, as they restored their 2-point lead over Juventus in the process.” Outside of the Boot

Champions League title, or failure – Guardiola under pressure

“Pep Guardiola has won the Bundesliga twice and the DFB-Pokal once. From Bayern’s point of view, it possible to think of the Bundesliga and the Pokal as useless. If you win the Bundesliga eight times in ten years, you would not be celebrating either. We all know what ambitions Pep Guardiola had when he came to Bayern. He wanted to infect Bayern with his football ideas, building his second Barcelona. Did he succeed? Partially, yes!” Bundesliga Fanatic

Pep Guardiola must realise Manchester City’s dream of joining the European elite
“For Manchester City, it feels as though the announcement that Pep Guardiola will take charge in the summer is the culmination of a four-year process. From the moment Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano arrived as director of football and chief executive respectively, their aim was to appoint the man with whom they had achieved such success at Barcelona.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Money League – Oh! You Pretty Things

“A couple of weeks ago Deloitte published the 19th edition of their annual Football Money League, which ranks leading clubs by revenue, this time for the 2014/15 season. On the face of it, little has changed compared to the previous year, as Real Madrid once again top the table for the 11th year in a row with annual revenue of €577 million (£439 million), and there are no new entrants in the top 10. However, there has been some movement with Barcelona (€561 million) overtaking both Manchester United (€520 million) and Bayern Munich (€474 million) to reclaim second place, as they became only the third club to break the €500 million revenue barrier.” The Swiss Ramble

The roots of Russian football racism – Part Two

“Slurping – the sound that suck calves make when you’re weaning them, or pigs at the trough, or Russians drinking hot tea. It isn’t racism from me, they don’t want to let the tea cool, or be ‘civilized’ and add milk. I was on a platzkart train from Voronezh to Moscow and my neighbours were all having breakfast and slurping tea. I’d fallen asleep just before midnight cheesed off. In the four bunk kupe next to mine a group of relatively well-heeled men and women in their mid-20’s were drinking tea and talking politics. They were liberal and very anti-Putin. Any other time I’d have an interest in their conversation, though when they kept commenting about a family from Tajikistan in the next kupe, I spoke out.” backpagefootball

Gary Neville: A Brit abroad in Valencia

“It is fair to assume that a few eyebrows were raised when England coach Gary Neville was appointed Valencia manager until the end of the season. Yet there are many links that helped the joint Salford City owner and former Manchester United right-back seal his position. His brother, Phil, had been working as Assistant Manager for the Spanish giants since the summer and fellow Salford City owner, billionaire Peter Lim, also has a stake in Los Che. Gary Neville certainly knows his football.” Outside of the Boot

The Old School manager’s memoirs

“The era of the ‘celebrity gaffer’ is upon us. Mourinho out, Guardiola leaving, Simeone interested, Klopp on Merseyside, and football critics and fans following their every gesture. There’s a reason those four have won, or in Klopp’s case been minutes away from, the top prizes on the continent in the last ten years: they galvanise their players, create a winning mentality and attract the best talent to work under them.” Football Pink