Champions League Tactical Preview: Liverpool to dominate Atletico

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Atletico Madrid v Liverpool
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Atletico have won just one of their last seven matches in all competitions as Diego Simeone’s side float in existential crisis. It would appear that his era in Madrid is coming to an end, with football having moved on from Simeone tactics; they are no longer the hard pressing, defensively resilient team we once saw. Atletico are oddly passive, dropping deep rather than pressing and that hands Liverpool a clear advantage.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are relentless. They will surely dominate the ball for long periods, patiently waiting for opportunities to pull apart Atletico’s deep-lying defensive shell. More specifically, in-form Sadio Mane can become the dominant force in the game operating in between Stefan Savic and right-back Sime Vrsaljko – both of whom are struggling at the moment.

But it’s Atletico’s passivity off the ball that will really cause problems, even if Simeone’s 4-4-2 has two bodies in the wide positions to stop Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold from running the game. Liverpool should win fairly comfortably.

Dortmund v PSG
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 3

The simple statistics tell us everything we need to know about how fun this game is going to be; over their combined last 12 games, Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain have seen 66 goals. Those goals have come at both ends, too, reflecting PSG’s maddening openness in an ultra-attacking 4-2-2-2 and Dortmund’s propensity to go all out – with both full-backs flying forward.

PSG are expected to play with style, while Thomas Tuchel has long struggled to find a balance that fits his four main attackers. Consequently they won’t curb their usual tactics, meaning Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Mauro Icardi, and Julian Draxler will leave just two midfielders to cope with the onslaught of Dortmund counters.

However, whenever these counters break down, PSG will be just as ruthless bursting down the other end, focusing on passing into the channels to get behind Dortmund’s marauding full-backs. This should be hopelessly end to end.

Tottenham v RB Leipzig
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Tottenham are nothing like a Jose Mourinho team. The 3-2 win at Villa Park on Sunday was the perfect example of the surprising tactics we’ve seen by the new Spurs manager so far; a wide-open formation that sees plenty of chances created at both ends. He isn’t picking defensive midfielders and instructing them to hold, plus the defensive line is surprisingly high with the right-back pouring forward to create a front five.

That is an issue for the visit of RB Leipzig, who predominantly attack down the left on the counter via Timo Werner. Their 3-4-1-2 formation focuses on quickly releasing Werner as new wing-back Angelino looks to join him, and this is the area Spurs are most vulnerable – as Jack Grealish repeatedly showed at the weekend.

Serge Aurier will get caught ahead of the ball and Giovani Lo Celso, in right-centre midfield, will continue to pierce forward to join the attack. That leaves an ominous pocket of space for Werner to gallop into, which should make for a highly entertaining game at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium on Wednesday.

Atalanta v Valencia
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 3

Atalanta have collected 10 points from their last four matches while Valencia have failed to win any of their last three, creating a psychological imbalance between the sides that will likely impact the tactical effectiveness of the two sides. The hosts’ attractive possession football in a 3-5-2 formation should be too complex, overwhelming a Valencia side whose 4-4-2 looks a bit flat at the moment.

In the 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid at the weekend Valencia conceded via two clumsy errors from centre-backs, the second when caught in possession on the edge of their own box. This is precisely the kind of thing that will happen against the high-pressing Italian side, whose energy off the ball can catch a team that don’t create the right passing angles in a 4-4-2 to cope with a 3-5-2.

Atalanta hold a numerical advantage in central midfield and out wide, attacking down the flanks more regularly (76%) than any other Italian side. Valencia continue to struggle at right back, making Daniel Weiss against Robin Gosen the game’s key battle.

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