ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses FourFourTwo's StatsZone app to preview Saturday's Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea...
Chelsea’s performance in their semi-final victory over Barcelona was highly reminiscent of their former coach Jose Mourinho’s tactics in the 2010 semi-final, when his Inter side travelled to the Nou Camp and enjoyed a similarly successful result. Mourinho also went onto play Bayern in the final that year, kept roughly the same tactics, and Diego Milito scored both goals in a 2-0 win.
Will Chelsea follow Mourinho’s lead, and play the same way against Bayern as they did against Barcelona? The two sides play a similar style of football – Barcelona have the highest pass completion rate and highest average possession in Europe’s five major leagues, but Bayern are second in both categories. With 'home advantage' helping their dominance, the German side are likely to enjoy well over 50% of possession.
Of course, Bayern play with more natural width than Barcelona and, in Mario Gomez, have an aerial target for crosses. But the defensive stats from their match in Barcelona demonstrate that Chelsea have already been playing in a manner that will suit the challenge of Bayern – intercepting the ball in very central positions, but making tackles in wider positions to close down the wingers.
Frank Lampard has taken on a different role in Chelsea’s European fixtures this season. In the league, even when fielded as a deep-lying midfielder alongside John Obi Mikel, he still gets plenty of time to move forward into the opposition half and help create chances. But in the Champions League, he’s played as a very disciplined holding midfielder, something we haven’t seen him do before.
The graphic below demonstrates this – his Premier League role is as something of a box-to-box midfielder, spraying passes all over the pitch. In the home game against Barcelona, he barely got into the final third, and focused on playing passes out to Ramires and Juan Mata on the break.
It will be interesting to see where he is fielded in the final – he could play as a holding midfielder alongside Mikel, with Mata as the number ten and Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou on the flanks. Alternatively, if Malouda isn’t fit, Mata will move wide, Lampard will be pushed higher up, and Michael Essien would come into the side alongside Mikel. Even then, it isn't yet clear whether Lampard would play high up the pitch in support of Drogba, or much deeper alongside his two midfield colleagues.
The suspension of Brazilian holding midfielder Luiz Gustavo means Bayern are without a certain first-teamer deep in midfield, and will therefore have to play Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger as their two holders.
That means Kroos has to be brought back from the advanced midfield role he has filled so well in the two legs against Real Madrid. Instead, Thomas Muller will play there, probably occupying a position higher up the pitch, close to Mario Gomez.
But Muller also has a tendency to drift to the right when fielded in that No.10 position – in the away game against Marseille, for example, he consistently took up positions on the right wing (where he can also play) despite the fact Arjen Robben was playing in the same zone. Chelsea will have to be wary of this, and be careful that Ashley Cole isn’t overloaded in the left-back position.
Another enforced change for Bayern will be Diego Contento coming in at left-back in place of the suspended David Alaba. Contento won’t know his direct opponent until kick-off – Salomon Kalou could play on that flank, or Di Matteo could decide to put Juan Mata out there. Those two players offer a very different threat, with Kalou more of a dribbler and Mata likely to put himself in central positions and create.
Interestingly, Contento is a very different style of left-back to Alaba. As Contento showed in Bayern’s game at Manchester City earlier in the season, he’s much more of an interceptor than a tackler, the complete opposite of Alaba. With that in mind, his style might be more suited to playing against Mata’s clever positioning than against Kalou’s direct running with the ball.
Stats Zone is a free-download app from FourFourTwo powered by stats from Opta, updated LIVE in-play and covering Champions League and Premier
League. Coming soon: the completely free Euro 2012 StatsZone, in association with Coral.
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