1. May 28, 2011

    One of the things people really forget about the 2009 final was that it was a major tactical innovation Guardiola introduced during the final that made a major impact on the outcome.

    We take it for granted now about Messi playing in the center. But it was much less given back then.

    Moving Messi to the center in that false 9 role caused United all sorts of confusion in their defensive scheme and tactics.

    It was a masterstroke. If any other manager had done something similar they would have been lauded to no end for that move given the impact it had on the match.

    Both goals scored in part due to the tactical confusion Guardiola caused United.

    Let’s see what Pep has set up for today’s final.

    • barca96
      May 28, 2011

      Exactly. Back then, it was a surprise for Man U, having Messi playing the false 9 role. But 2 seasons on, I think SAF will must’ve done something. Will he deploy someone to track Messi everywhere? I think he can do that, but they don’t have someone like Pepe. Therefore I think it doesn’t matter.

      Btw, I thought about this for weeks already. I really think that Man U has an advantage in this. They’re basically playing in their back yard. It’s in their country, they will definitely have more support. Back in Rome it was on neutral ground.
      Add to the fact that we are piss poor when playing away, especially in ENgland, gives me an extra cause of concern.

  2. Barca99
    May 28, 2011

    Good analyse! And you are totally right with the innovation of Messi in that game.

  3. Srini
    May 28, 2011

    Outstanding analysis from Euler. It is a coherent analysis of how Manchester United shifted from a goal scoring machine in Dimitar Berbatov to a new energy bunny in Javier Hernandez in mid season and did not miss a beat and in fact garnered a few more beats to become a Champions League contender.

    As to how Manchester United will play in the final to counter Barcelona’s outstanding possession play without giving up shape and retaining the 4-4-1-1 formation, I suppose it will give a far more dynamic role to Park. Or perhaps it will give up on the 4-4-1-1 and play a more traditional 4-5-1 itself a lot like Madrid with Darren Fletcher in the business and Rooney a lone striker supported by wingers Valencia and Park with Giggs, Fletcher and Carrick in the middle to suffocate the Barcelona midfield.

    Either ways, it promises to be a cracker of a tactical battle between an experienced fiddler in Alex Ferguson and a philosophical imposer in Pep Guardiola.

  4. Whatever
    May 28, 2011

    I am pretty Sure that Ferguson won’t play the formation you described, Euler. He will probably leave Chicharito on the bench for another midfielder. Chicharito will probably be his super-sub. He sought advice from Mourinho! And both of them know that you can’t outplay Barca, you can only try to stop Barca.

  5. can_we_go_Xalvies
    May 28, 2011

    Thank you Euler, I enjoyed reading this amazingly detailed piece.

  6. flyzowee
    May 28, 2011

    Amazing analysis by Euler.
    I dont know your background Euler but you are great at this.

    However we are assuming that Fergie will play 4-4-1-1.
    Theres uncertainty here as you clearly indicated.

    Word going around is that we are a spent force in terms of energy come the 70th min mark.

    This would probably represent the best time for united to hurt us, that is if the game is still in the balance by then.

    Fergie comments about this being a beautiful game and it being the game of the decade is all lip service for me.

    The more cagey the game is the better for United.
    The longer the game remains scoreless the more confident United will be esp with the Rome final playing on their minds.

    The first 20min are crucial in this regard.

    Its a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 for United for me. Chigarito drops to the bench and fletcher starts. Adjustments to be made in the 2nd half.

    Barca 1 – 0 Man Utd.

  7. Extreme barca fan
    May 28, 2011

    Thanks you very much for this Euler, very interesting as always
    I think i will agree with flyzowee on this, there is too much lip service from ferguson, i believe Man Utd will play ultra defensively and try to his us on the break, however i still think we will win this.

    • soccermomof4
      May 28, 2011

      I expect them to play ultra defensively too, but not dirty like EE.

  8. soccermomof4
    May 28, 2011

    Wow Euler! Just wow!

    I had wondered why they stopped using Berbatov.

    I really don’t care who Pep plays between Puyi, Abi and Masch. I imagine that Pep knows who is fit. But it would be kinda cool to see us end the year with our magical starting XI.

    If we play like we know we can, we’ve got this.

    Visca Barca!

  9. psqd
    May 28, 2011

    Thanks for the thoughtful, detailed, and insightful analysis!

  10. Whatever
    May 28, 2011

    So, what do you guys think:

    #1 Alves – Pique – Puyol – Abidal


    #2 Alves – Mascherano – Pique – Puyol

    What will Guardiola roll out with?

  11. flyzowee
    May 28, 2011

    He will go for No.1 if available other than that adriano in for Abidal.
    Either way puyol and pique stay in the middle.

    • stowe
      May 28, 2011

      twas good. had to stop reading the comments because i was getting angry.

  12. May 28, 2011

    United are wearing their white shirts today. Don’t they know what that does to us?

  13. Extreme barca fan
    May 28, 2011

    Do we have the squad list yet? any one???

    • Whatever
      May 28, 2011

      It’s too early… We’ll have it around 19:45 (1 hour before the game).

      • Extreme barca fan
        May 28, 2011

        I mean the final 18 players, not the starting 11

  14. Jnice
    May 28, 2011

    Great piece, Euler. Eklavya sent it to Zonal Marking and got it retweeted. He also said it was a nice piece.

    • Eklavya
      May 28, 2011

      Yeah Euler, ZonalMarking read your post! 🙂

      • Eklavya
        May 28, 2011

        (Also, notice how it never gets retweeted when Jnice tries…)

    • flyzowee
      May 28, 2011

      How come Euler is so good at this analytical stuff?
      Has he got some experience like i dunno maybe commentary or smth…lol
      Surely he aint a blaugrana mortal like us?

  15. May 28, 2011

    Thank you everyone! I stayed up until 4am to finish this piece and glad I did!

    I know it’s extremely long – I think it’s the longest post I’ve done for the BFB. And I know it takes significant effort just to even read it. So I greatly appreciate people taking time out to go through it.

    @Eklavya – I don’t care how many people want to sell you during live blogs – you are gold in my book! Thanks so much for tweeting the article to zonal marking. It’s terrific to hear that he actually took the time to read the piece and then enjoyed it enough to retweet it.

    And thanks to everyone else who may have tweeted or linked to it. I’m not on twitter so it’s appreciated.

    • Eklavya
      May 28, 2011

      No problem Euler, I was just doing some publicity 🙂

      It was also retweeted by Andy McGeady and willdurnan (don’t know but they are) and the latter said, “@Eklavya_FCB @Zonal_Marking Despite Dimitri/Dimitar mistake that one article contains more intelligent comment than you’ll hear on ITV today”.

      I didn’t find this article very long. Probably because it was very engaging!

      • May 28, 2011

        Oh boy. I can’t believe I actually wrote Dimitri rather than Dimitar. I only read his name around 1000 times looking at United formation. I was just getting so tired last night.

        I’ve updated the article to fix the mistake, some types and some language issues.

  16. Huckleberry
    May 28, 2011

    I expect a Mourinho-like gameplan from Manchester.
    And I hope for a demolition of this gameplan…

  17. stowe
    May 28, 2011

    Dang it! why is this game on at 2:45am?!
    good thing I only teach one class tomorrow and I have another teacher carrying at least half the load.
    I can’t see Fergie using the 4-4-1-1 unless he has chicharito drop deeper to help out. I think we will see a more traditional DM/holding middy behind their midfield to help mark messi.

    alright. I’m gonna catch some ZZZZZZZZZZZZZs before I go out to watch the game. oh i hope my jersey is clean enough to wear.

    Don’t lose your brain too much and have fun

    visca Barca

  18. May 28, 2011

    If Ferguson does elect to not use his favored 4-4-1-1 formation, Pep and Barca will have already won an enormous tactical victory before they even step onto the pitch.

    They will have forced the opposition to do what they don’t want. To play in a way they have themselves deemed to be sub-optimal.

    That is a major victory. It is imposing yourself on the opposition and making them react before the game even starts.

    That said – Ferguson my just have to concede that victory to Pep. I don’t think they can afford to get over run in midfield and a 4-2-3-1 gives them the best chance of avoiding this – even if it means sacrificing chicharito.

    If Fletcher is not available, I would strongly consider playing Park, Giggs and Carrick in midfield while using Valencia on the right and Nani on the left. That would allow United to maintain attacking threat on both flanks while incorporating Park and Rooney’s work rates in the middle of the pitch.

    The key thing there would be to really drill into Nani that he must play on the counter. His main job will be defensive – he has to track Dani and only get forward in the transition game.

    I think Nani would do this if instructed and drilled to do so for the past two weeks.

    • Flippy
      May 28, 2011

      A very interesting and engaging read, and I have learned quite a lot from your article, but I have a question for you. Do you think it is possible Sir Alex would play with a 3 man defense, or would that be tactical suicide. It would leave United vulnerable on the wings, but if the defense stays compact enough it would be able to hold off Villa and Pedro cutting in, while adding an extra player into the midfield and not significantly altering the offense. The 3-5-2 or 3-5-1-1 formation might be able to challenge us with significant pressure and maybe nab a goal from a counterattack before halftime or so, when United would switch to a more defensive and compact formation. I do not understand much about tactics, but I am eager to learn as I was a bit of a chess player. Do you have any recommendations for learning more about tactics? Thanks for a great article!

      • May 28, 2011


        You’ve hit on a very interesting point. In many ways playing three at the back is absolutely the right thing to do against this Barca squad with Messi as a false 9.

        Given how much time messi spends in midfield and between the lines having two center backs is redundant. It would be far better to have an extra man in midfield.

        For the most part Barca has 2 forwards matched up against the defense at any one time. So 3 at the back should work.

        But that would cause two difficulties. First, if you play three at the back you will have difficulty using your own full backs to provide width in attack. It becomes very risky.

        Second and most important – if you do play three at the back Messi will simply not drop deep as much. He’ll stay higher up the pitch and move more laterally from touch line to touch line.

        And that’s the real problem. With three at the back Messi would find opportunities to go 1 vs. 1 to run at the backs. At the same time Villa and Pedro would also be lined up 1 vs. 1.

        The problem with 3 at the back is that Barca can adjust to it and do so relatively easily.

        Regarding tactics – I’d recommend reading Jonathan Wilson’s remarkable book Inverting the Pyramid. It’s a classic. Perhaps the seminal book on tactics. Also, Wilson’s column’s in the guardian on tactics, “The Question…” is just terrific. Go back in the archives and just start reading all of them.

        Zonal Marking is just phenomenal as well. His team of the decade series is just great.

        A few other things I’d recommend are Rinus Michels book Team Building. In some ways I wish Michels had written a more systematic, thorough book given his genius. But Team Building is a more practical kind of book for coaches. It’s still a must read for any cule interested in tactics.

        Michels concept of “team efficient” is perhaps the single most important idea behind how barca plays.

        Some other books on tactics I really like – Soccer Attacking Schemes and Training Exercises by Eugenio Fascetti. Soccer the International Training Guide by Jerzy Wros is also very good.

        Finally – the best way to learn is to record matches and simply keep stopping them over and over and ask yourself why is what I’m seeing happening. That’s the best way to learn about tactics, IMO.

    • May 28, 2011

      Manchester already played other tactical structures in many occasions. The 4-4-1-1ish structure is the most used, but they are not as dedicated to it as we are for our tactical skeleton. So I dont think they will be conceding anything by changing the approach. What matters at the end of the day is the result, and they will do what they believe can get them closer to the victory.

      Man Utd is an opportunistic pragmatic team. Players are already “brainwashed” to make sure the job done. It doesn’t matter what tactics is needed and what players functionality required.

      Its really a close call. But I still feel its unlikely that the two teams will take predictable approach. This is a match of surprises. In the other hand, form in training sessions in the past two weeks dictate lot of facts on tactical decisions.

      Yet, no matter how the two coaches decide to plan the game, this game is in the hands of the players concentration and drive. Luck will be there to have a saying as well.

      Good job with the tactical opinion.

      I have a good feeling about the game.

  19. poipoi
    May 28, 2011

    Great tactic read as always.
    2 hours 45min! Good luck to you all, visca el barça visca BFB visca all of you…. maybe the beer started its intended effect 😛

    • poipoi
      May 28, 2011

      I’m off to “arc del triomf”!!! Have a good final guys

  20. May 28, 2011

    So we have NEVER lost a match played on the 28th day of the month (4W, 1D). Who the hell found that stat?

  21. 90sbaby
    May 28, 2011

    The wait is killing me and I got bad feelings about this.

    I think playing at England is going to be of some benefit to Manchester, I can’t remember in recent times of us playing that well or even winning there.

      • Ryan
        May 28, 2011

        We didn’t have a shot on target there until the 92nd minute or so…

        • Nik
          May 28, 2011

          True, but 90sbaby mentioned winning in England. No matter how badly we played, we did get the result we needed. 🙂

          • Ryan
            May 28, 2011

            Yeah, but we technically didn’t win. 😉

          • Nik
            May 28, 2011

            hehe true, but as Kxevin would say, that was an instance when “a draw [was] as good as a win”. 😉

  22. Nik
    May 28, 2011

    Fantastic piece as always, Euler. The best part about your articles is how everything makes so much sense. It makes you wonder why the so-called “experts” in the media can’t produce pieces with half as much insight as yours.

  23. Jim
    May 28, 2011

    Not liking the rumours about Puyol playing LB rather than Abidal. Mind you, nothing confirmed yet. Just to say I won’t be joining liveblog – way too tense- but with you all in spirit. Visca Barca !

  24. May 28, 2011

    Oh man, I’m so nervocited, I’m creating words to express my nervousness and excitement! AHHHHHHH!

    Finals rarely live up to expectations, but that depends on what you’re expecting. I just want a win, with us dominating them, and Messi, Villa, Abidal, Busi, Afellay, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Alves, Thiago, Puyol and Pique to score.

    I know right? Not that unreasonable at all.

    • blitzen
      May 28, 2011

      You forgot Bojan to score in extra time. 🙂

      • May 28, 2011

        Yes, yes I did. And I see that goal so clearly too. Abidal robs the ball from Valencia and passes to Busi, who dishes the ball to Iniesta who dribbles past three defenders before giving a side-rule pass to Alves who forgets to chut de bol and loses it, but Messi is there to recover it and looks to pass to Villa, but he’s offside so Leo chuts de bol but it hits the post and Bojan is there to (somehow) bamboozle his defender and tap it home.

        It can’t fail.

        (I also have the strangest feeling Villa will come up huge today. Nothing to really back that up except it’s his first UCL final and he’d want to prove himself.)

  25. 90sbaby
    May 28, 2011

    1 – 1 draw and while we dominated we didn’t create any clear cut opportunities.

  26. Eklavya
    May 28, 2011

    barcastuff: Guardiola has prepared a video that includes both
    tactical and motivational pieces. The players will watch it now. #
    fcblive [cat radio]

  27. Eklavya
    May 28, 2011

    I won’t be at the LoveBlob either (will there be one?). Because I will be having 10 people at home, its gonna be crazy!!

    LETS DO THIS!!!!!!!!!

  28. May 28, 2011

    vicsoc will be running the liveblog like a boss. He’ll be watching the game too, so don’t make his job harder!

    Imma go rock myself in a corner for the next hour and half.

  29. May 28, 2011

    Game’s on Sportsnet for all Canadians. Coverage starts in half an hour!

  30. pilar
    May 28, 2011

    No Puyol acording to the catalan tv.
    Valdes, Alves, Masche, Pique, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Villa

    • May 28, 2011

      Really? I got this: Barcelona lineup: (official): Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Villa

      • Whatever
        May 28, 2011

        And I got this: Barcelona line-up (official): Valdes – Alves Mascherano Pique Abidal – Xavi Busquets Iniesta – Pedro Messi Villa


        • May 28, 2011

          Nope, yours in the right one. Mine was still unofficial it seems (that’s what I get for not looking at the source….)

  31. May 28, 2011

    Our lineup looks to be the pre-injury lineup most were predicting. Man Utd’s looks like the 4-4-1-1 that Euler was talking about. Surprised, I expected Chicharito as an impact sub

  32. May 28, 2011

    Man United lineup (official): Van Der Sar, Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Chicharito

    Like barca_ctb, I thought Chicharito would be an impact sub.

  33. vicsoc
    May 28, 2011

    Confirmed, no Puyol. Abidal starts.

    Lets just go ahead and sign Botia and Sahko tomorrow.

  34. May 28, 2011

    NO PUYOL! 😯

    Barcelona line-up (official via barcastuff): Valdes – Alves Mascherano Pique Abidal – Xavi Busquets Iniesta – Pedro Messi Villa

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 28, 2011

      sMasch has an unbelievable positional sense in terms of defending. He could be the best in in the world in that area. Let us see how it all pans out.

  35. jordi™
    May 28, 2011

    Its ok, Puyi will roam the sidelines shouting at Gerard to keep him focussed :/

  36. vicsoc
    May 28, 2011

    Maxwell doesn’t make the bench, looks like he is definitely out this summer

  37. May 28, 2011

    Okay, okay, calm now everyone.

    Just think about this for a second and it makes some sense. There was talk of Puyol undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery next week (Sport, I know, but still)– that’s quite serious. Furthermore, Puyol hasn’t played back-to-back games and is lacking match fitness. Even if he started, he was bound to be subbed some time in the second half.

    On the other hand, Mascherano has done very well at CB, despite his inexperience. If things don’t go well, we still have Puyi on the bench to improve the back line….

    But I still wanted el Capita from the start. 🙁

  38. Whatever
    May 28, 2011

    Whenever Puyol plays, we don’t lose. Now he’s not playing… And yesterday he said that he feels fit and ready. But Guardiola knows best.

  39. barca96
    May 28, 2011

    WTF??? Doesn’t Pep know that Puyol is our leader???
    Even though when he’s at 60% he would still be very useful.

    • Jim
      May 28, 2011

      Yeah, for me he plays, even at 70%. I don’t agree that Masch has great positional sense although he has played quite well there for a non- CB. I’m more worried about the effect this will have on Pique. Puyol gives him confidence to play his best.

      Finally, we’d better pray they don’t get too many set pieces. This is one small side against english opposition.

  40. May 28, 2011

    Mind control. Puyol must use his mindcontrol to control Geri from the bench. “You must keep foucs. Do not look for Shakira in the stands. Damnit Pique, Chicharito just past you! Execute the perfectly timed slide tackle I taught you RIGHT NOW! Slide tackle the foo’ pronto!”

  41. May 28, 2011

    Good move Pep. We need a Rooney hunter between defense and midfield while keep having two players at the back. This is the best way to do it. Beside, Puyol had injury problems.

    • May 28, 2011

      Ramzi to the rescue! I was just talking outta my arse above….

      That’s right, sMasch is also a defensive midfielder and so he has an additional skill set that helps in marking Rooney. Not to mention he must have done that plenty of time with Liverpool.

      I feel good again.

  42. Nik
    May 28, 2011

    No Puyol?!

    In Pep I trust. In Pep I trust. In Pep I trust.

    Scary, but El Jefe has stepped up to the plate before. There’s no reason to doubt him or the team now. Visca Barça!

  43. May 28, 2011

    But Abibal starts :mrgreen: Let’s go King Eric. Own that left lank!

  44. Para
    May 28, 2011

    Euler, I saved your post to read as my ‘last’ tactical piece, and I am so glad I did. Reading it just reminds me again how clearly you manage to explain things to someone like me, who knows nothing about tactics, while at the same time not dumbing things down.

    Thank you!

  45. vicsoc
    May 28, 2011

    Liveblog is posted. I’m going to go drink 6 beers before the game starts, see you in 30 minutes!

  46. no Puyi does create a very weird feeling…!

    14 minutes to go … and off to da living room same group of people in my living as in the manita! I leave nothing to chance!


  47. zul200289
    May 28, 2011

    Just registered to say that..

    You totally nailed it.

    SAF chose to play 4-4-1-1 against barca and what had happened on the pitch was exactly the same as what you have written here.

    I wonder why SAF didn’t change the formation at HT? Maybe because in the early 10 mins Utd was pressing exceptionally well because 4-4-1-1 allows each utd player to have natural match-up for each player to press and he’s banking on it to work throughout the second half?

    • zul200289
      May 28, 2011

      It might have worked though, if chicharito had enough experience to not be caught offside by barca’s defense.

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