Manchester City 1-2 Barcelona: City’s 4-4-2 shape is their downfall

Atletico Madrid are one of the few team which have found success against Barcelona playing a 4-4-2 formation. But Simeone’s 4-4-2 is a world away from what Manuel Pelligrini’s City played on Tuesday. Generally Atletico are very narrow and compact and very difficult to break down. City for various reasons where easy pickings in the first half where Barca could have scored more than the 2 they scored. City were stronger in the second half and till Clichy’s red card were looking more likely to score.

Sergio Busquets

Busquets has had a dip in form ever since Guardiola left and hasn’t actually hit the heights of the 10-11 season when he was impeccable. But still the Catalan midfielder is an important part of the Barca team and it’s important to stop him to stop the Barca midfield. Simeone’s Atletico generally defend with all the 11 players between Busquets and the goal. City’s two forwards were generally behind Busquets most of the time and even when Dzeko dropped back he didn’t press Busquets with any intensity.

Busquets Passing
Busquets Passing

City’s narrow shape

With Silva’s and Nasri’s natural tendency to cut in,City were quite narrow in midfield. It does makes sense to play narrow against the Barca three so that the midfield doesn’t get overrun. But with Dzeko in the side,one logical way of attacking would have been crosses into the box. Jesus Navas along with Zabaleta overlapping could have exploited Barca’s 4-3-3 and with Mascherano not having the best of days,Dzeko would have been a goal threat. In the second half as City got hold of the ball more,the full backs started pushing forward. This led to a couple of chances for Dzeko from crosses one of which he should have scored.

Silva & Nasri's heatmap
Silva & Nasri’s heatmap

 

Barca Pressing

Luis Suarez was central to Barcelona’s approach when Man City had the ball. Suarez didn’t allow both the center backs to play the ball as they wished. It didn’t help City that Martin Demichelis is poor on the ball and the responsibility to start attacks from the back falls on Kompany. Messi and Neymar pulled back into midfield and cut off Fernando and Milner’s supply. This was a tactic to force the center backs to play the ball to the full backs. Barca then heavily pressed the City fullbacks who didn’t have much of an out ball. This pressing worked very well for Barca in the first half and they had periods of sustained pressure where City couldn’t get out of their area.

With Yaya Toure back for the second leg, Manuel Pelligrini has a couple of decisions to make. Dzeko didn’t contribute much in this game and Bony is still very new to City’s team,so Pelligrini might go just with Aguero up top and David Silva at number 10. James Milner might still start in place of Nasri on the right,Milner’s energy and pressing is key to disrupting Barca’s midfield.