24/04/13 – Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid (Champions League Semi Final)

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid (Champions League Semi Final)Mats Hummels is finally fit enough to return to Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League starting XI at the expense of Felipe Santana. Elsewhere Sven Bender is likely to play ahead of Sebastian Kehl in what should be Jurgen Klopp’s first choice line-up.

A suspension to Alvaro Arbeloa will mean Jose Mourinho is in need of a full back: Sergio Ramos may move from centre back rather than Michael Essien coming in. Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain continue to tussle for the forward position, although the Frenchman’s weekend goal may give him the edge.

These sides met in the group stage, Dortmund winning 2-1 at home before earning a 2-2 draw in the Bernabeu with a mixture of intelligent defence and quick counter attacks… (Read more)

23/04/13 – Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Champions League Semi Final)

Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Champions League Semi Final)Bayern are missing a few first team players, but their strength in depth should allow them to replace quality with quality. Jupp Heynckes is without the injured Toni Kroos, meaning Thomas Muller will continue in the central role and Arjen Robben will play on the right wing, while in attack Mario Gomez will replace the suspended Mario Mandzukic.

Tito Vilanova has more troubling absentees. Injuries to Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano and a suspension for Adriano deprive Barcelona of three senior centre backs, meaning either young Marc Bartra will deputise or Eric Abidal will make only his second start of the season after returning from injury. Meanwhile Lionel Messi is likely to be risked despite not being fully fit.

With Bayern on course for a record points haul in the Bundesliga and a possible treble of German League and Cup to go with the Champions League, Barcelona are aware that they enter a European tie as underdogs for the first time in four years… (Read more)

10/04/13 – Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain (Champions League Quarter Final)

Barcelona vs Paris Saint-GermainTito Vilanova has two major selection concerns ahead of the visit of Paris Saint-Germain. Lionel Messi is recovering from injury and may be replaced in attack by Cesc Fabregas, who scored a hat-trick at the weekend against Mallorca. In defence Javier Mascherano’s suspension, coupled with Carlos Puyol’s injury, means Vilanova will choose between Adriano, Sergio Busquets and Marc Bartra to partner Gerard Pique.

For Carlo Ancelotti, Blaise Matuidi’s suspension means that David Beckham is likely to continue alongside Marco Verratti, with the semi-fit Thiago Motta offering reinforcements from the bench. In attack Ezequiel should continue in his support role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, occupying Busquets before moving forward in attack. Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore will offer invention in the channels.

Barcelona’s injury problems surely give PSG hope, and Ancelotti will believe that the system that stifled the Catalans for much of the first leg and posed an aerial threat throughout can have more success against a side missing their star player and liable to field a makeshift centre back… (Read more)

10/04/13 – Juventus vs Bayern Munich (Champions League Quarter Final)

Juventus vs Bayern MunichJuventus’ task his made harder by the suspensions to Arturo Vidal and Stephan Lichtsteiner, although Paul Pogba and Mauricio Isla should be able deputies. Antonio Conte faces the usual dilemma in attack having failed to settle on a favoured partnership all season. The selection of Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri was a surprise and a failure, so Mirko Vucinic should start in place of one of them to offer greater movement.

Bayern Munich were dominant in the first leg and should be disappointed not to take a larger lead to Turin. The injury to Toni Kroos would usually be a cause for concern for Jupp Heynckes, but the performance of Thomas Muller in his place would suggest Kroos won’t be missed.

As mentioned in the first leg preview (found here), and largely supported by the performance, Bayern appear to have the perfect shape and selection to counter the threat posed by Juventus. Both managers are loyal to their preferred systems so a repeat is expected, although Conte will surely need to make allowances for his side’s failure to get into the game in Germany. This analysis will consider how Juventus can alter their system to stifle Bayern and cause them problems in attack… (Read more)

09/04/13 – Galatasaray vs Real Madrid (Champions League Quarter Final)

Galatasaray vs Real MadridA suspension to Buruk Yilmaz robs Fatih Terim of his top scorer, so Galatasaray will pair Umut Bulut alongside Didier Drogba in attack. With both Tomas Ujfalusi (injured) and Dany Nounkeu (suspended) missing in defence Gokhan Zan should come in alongside Semih Kaya.

Jose Mourinho is without the suspended Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso – although how upset he will be about that is debatable. Pepe and Luka Modric should come in. Otherwise Real Madrid should start their first choice side, but expect key players to be removed if the tie is wrapped up with an early away goal.

Few would deny this tie is over, but a tactical contest still remains. Terim attempted an ambitious and aggressive policy in the first leg that left Galatasaray vulnerable at the back and they paid the price. For this game he somehow needs to adjust his system to become more solid, yet find at least three goals. Madrid will play their usual way and expect to kill the game by half time… (Read more)

09/04/13 – Borussia Dortmund vs Malaga (Champions League Quarter Final)

Borussia Dortmund vs MalagaBorussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp will decide on the fitness of captain Jakub Blaszczykowski for the second leg against Malaga. The winger’s creativity has been missed in recent weeks, with Kevin Groβkreutz offering a more predictable threat. Should Blaszczykowski return to the side it would allow Marco Reus to switch back to his customary left-sided role from where he can cut infield onto his stronger right foot. Elsewhere Sven Bender is likely to replace Sebastian Kehl in midfield after a disappointing first leg performance, but Mats Hummels is still returning to full fitness.

Malaga are without the suspended Weligton in defence, so Diego Lugano will probably come in ahead of Oguchi Onyewu. Javier Saviola’s energetic display in the first leg should ensure he keeps his place in attack ahead of Roque Santa Cruz.

Dortmund will still be frustrated that they left Malaga without an away goal despite a dominating performance, so Manuel Pellegrini will know that an away goal will give the Spanish side a large advantage. He will be aware however that Dortmund were not at their best last week, and Klopp will hope that Bender and Blaszczykowski can add some fluency to the home side’s midfield. With no great tactical changes expected from the first leg (a preview of which can be found here), analysis will focus on what will be decisive second time around… (Read more)

03/04/13 – Malaga vs Borussia Dortmund (Champions League Quarter Final)

Malaga vs Borussia DortmundMalaga manager Manuel Pellegrini is likely to select his first choice side since Julio Baptista’s return from injury, with the Brazilan occupying a central advanced midfield role, with Isco moving to a left-sided position.

For Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp has introduced Nuri Sahin to the side and pushed Ilkay Gundogan into a more advanced position in recent weeks, but the on loan Turkish midfielder is cup-tied in Europe, suggesting Gundogan will return to a deeper role and Kevin Groβkreutz will complete the attacking trio behind Robert Lewandowski. Mats Hummels continues to miss out as he recovers from injury, so Felipe Santana will carry on partnering Neven Subotic in defence.

Malaga continue to be a surprise package in both La Liga and Europe, whereas Dortmund are now accepted as one of the continent’s elite sides, and have assumed the pressure and expectation that this brings… (Read more)

02/04/13 – Bayern Munich vs Juventus (Champions League Quarter Final)

Bayern Munich vs JuventusIt says a lot about the strength of the Bundesliga leaders that Bayern Munich are likely to drop three players that contributed 7 goals and 4 assists in their 9-2 victory over Hamburg at the weekend. With Jupp Heynckes resting a number of key players, Claudio Pizarro, Xherdan Shaqiri and Arjen Robben are expected to find themselves benched in favour of Mario Mandzukic, Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller. Elsewhere Daniel van Buyten may return at the expense of Jerome Boateng in defence in what would be Heynckes first choice XI.

Juventus manager Antonio Conte can also choose his first choice side for what is likely to be the tie of the round.

This is arguably Juventus’ first real test under Conte and will put their domestic success into a European context. The blip against Arsenal aside, Bayern have looked all-conquering for much of this campaign and are many people’s favourites for the competition… (Read more)

05/03/13 – Borussia Dortmund vs Shakhtar Donetsk (Champions League Last 16)

Borussia Dortmund vs Shakhtar DonetskWith Borussia Dortmund’s late equaliser in the Ukraine securing a 2-2 draw, the German champions will want to complete victory at home in front of their fanatical supporters.

Dortmund’s goalscorer Mats Hummels faces a fight to be fit, so Felipe Santana once again finds himself on standby to partner Neven Subotic at centre back. Ilkay Gundogan should return having missed the first leg through injury, with Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl in contention to partner him in midfield. Jurgen Klopp has tweaked his system recently, playing two in attack against Hannover at the weekend and a three man midfield against Bayern Munich in the German Cup, but Dortmund are likely to return to their familiar 4-2-3-1 shape.

For Shakhtar Donetsk, Mircea Lucescu welcomes back Olexandr Kucher from suspension to play alongside Yaroslav Rakitskiy at centre back. Douglas Costa’s goal in the first leg may also see him fill the left wing role in place of Taison.

Dortmund will expect to progress considering their away goal advantage, but Shakhtar remain dangerous opponents… (Read more)

05/03/13 – Manchester United vs Real Madrid (Champions League Last 16)

Man Utd vs Real MadridManchester United host Real Madrid with the tie perfectly poised at 1-1.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be without Phil Jones, who performed an important defensive role in the first leg, so Ferguson may turn to Ryan Giggs or Tom Cleverley in a holding role alongside Michael Carrick. With Nemanja Vidic playing at the weekend, Jonny Evans will probably partner Rio Ferdinand in defence. Antonio Valencia has been given the chance to play himself back into form – although it’s debatable if he has succeeded – and will probably play on the right, while Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa will expect to fill the left midfield and central playmaker roles.

Madrid are coming into this game off the back of two Clasico victories, so confidence should be high. The form of Raphael Varane has made him a regular alongside Sergio Ramos, but Alvaro Arbeloa appears to face competition from Michael Essien for the right back slot following the latter’s deployment at full back on Saturday. Pepe, often used as a midfield destroyer against Barcelona, may feature as a more defensive option to Sami Khedira. Once again Jose Mourinho must choose between Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain in attack – Benzema’s opener on Saturday in conjunction with Higuain’s poor showing in the first leg probably makes the Frenchman favourite to start. Iker Casillas’ inclusion in the squad suggests he may rival Diego Lopez for the goalkeeping position.

Just as with the first leg both managers will want to counter attack, so the team seemingly on the back foot will often be the side offering the most threat… (Read more)