Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Barcelona use quick transitions to ruthlessly exploit Leverkusen

A game in which Barcelona yet again showed their superiority to dominate and humiliate the opposition.

Guardiola's men started in a very mobile shape often close to a 4-2-4/4-2-1-3, with Iniesta on the left in attack, though just as quickly swapping with Fabregas and Pedro on the right but also moving inside with Messi playing as a false striker. Busquets was often the deepest of the Barcelona midfield, often dropping into defence to make a back three allowing the full backs to move forward. Bayer Leverkusen played in a 4-4-2 system with Castro dropping in to play at right back and Kiessling and Derdiyok leading the line but both looking to drop deep in front of their midfield.           

Barcelona again looked to dominate possession with plenty of interchanging in midfield and attack, and the defence spreading wide and looking to switch play and create space with their movement inside. Bayer Leverkusen initially wanted to press high with their strikers and midfielders looking to push up with the back four playing a fairly high line. They were well organised early on, however Barca gave them a warning when Fabregas played a lovely dink over the top for Messi who forced a save from Leno after Leverkusen lacked pressure on the ball outside the area which left them vulnerable behind.

Leverkusen were trying to commit men forward in attack, often moving their strikers and wide players high for direct balls forward. However they had limited opportunities to do this and their transitions were generally poor with Barcelona pressing high with their first and second line and their defence also pushing up to stop them moving forward.

Alves was moving very high on the right and, with the clever movement of the players inside which narrowed Leverkusen's wide men, space was opened up from switches to the wide areas. On the left, Iniesta was too often allowed a 1v1 against Castro and with the centre backs often too occupied to cover behind, Leverkusen struggled all game to close this area out, especially with tight diagonal passes into the channels. 

However, Leverkusen's biggest problem all game was how vulnerable they were behind. Their offside trap was unlocked for the first goal where Messi applied a lovely dink over the goalkeeper.

From there on, the game became one-sided. Leverkusen afforded too much space for Barca in the middle and the interchanging of positions and mobility in possession meant that the German side quickly lost their shape, getting enticed too high up, allowing space between the lines and left themselves vulnerable to the quick transition. The second goal just before half time effectively killed off their chances with Barca, not for the first time, breaking with at least numerical superiority and with the movement of Pedro and Fabregas, Messi got space to turn inside and score his second on the night.

Barcelona immediately regained control in the second half, dominating possession, switching the play and still finding space behind. Leverkusen had a clear idea in attack of winning the second ball high up with two or three runners often looking behind the defence and one or two players peeling off the centre back looking for the second ball where Barca often left too much space between midfield and defence. However this did not cause too many problems with Leverkusen having five of their seven shots blocked and Messi secured his hat trick with another lob over the goalkeeper not long after the start of the second half.

Tello and Keita came on for the brilliant Iniesta and Xavi but it did not alter the result with Tello and Fabregas exposing the lack of cover for Castro on the right to get Barca's fourth.

Leverkusen continued to struggle to keep their defensive shape with their centre midfield players getting enticed high up to the ball and getting exposed with Messi's movement between the lines. Another quick transition on the counter attack briefly left Barca with a 4v3 situation and Tello found space on the left to get his second goal.

As the tempo slowed down, Barca calmed the game down well yet still had good width from Alves and Tello to create space inside as Messi got his fourth and fifth of the night.

Leverkusen got a consolation goal after good play on the left from Bellarabi with a lack of defensive cover from the home side and Schurrle's pace was also a threat to the right but Barca looked composed and in control and came home with a comfortable 7-1 victory for a 10-2 aggregate victory.

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