Champions League Tactical Preview: Fernandinho v Lemar and other key battles

Guardiola could be set for a shock defeat against Monaco
Guardiola could be set for a shock defeat against Monaco
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Alex Keble takes a look at the four midweek Champions League games and picks out the key battles, including how Monaco's wingers could outscore Man City and why Seville will pile the pressure on Claudio Ranieri...

"Given that Fernandinho will tuck inside from right-back and Gael Clichy is careless positionally, Monaco's instincts might brutally expose Pep Guardiola's most vulnerable zone of the pitch."

Manchester City v Monaco

Fernandinho & Clichy v Silva & Lemar
Tuesday, 19:45,
Live on BT Sport 2

The tactical pattern of this match is easy to predict - and should produce one of the most exciting matches of the round. Man City will dominate possession and territory as the visitors happily sit deep, awaiting the opportunity to burst down the flanks on the counter. Given that Fernandinho will tuck inside from right-back and Gael Clichy is careless positionally, Monaco's instincts might brutally expose Pep Guardiola's most vulnerable zone of the pitch.

Monaco averaged 37% possession over their two wins against Tottenham Hotspur this season, in which the transitional speed of their 4-4-2 formation shocked one of the Premier League's most possession-centric, high-pressing sides. Guardiola can expect a similarly difficult tie, not least because his own full-backs are unreliable.

Yaya Toure requires constant support in central midfield, and so Fernandinho is now frequently deployed as an inverted full-back - which could leave him overwhelmed by Thomas Lemar. Ditto Clichy (who over-commits to attacks) with Bernardo Silva, especially if Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane are the two wingers. Neither will track back.

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Lemar and Silva average 5.5 dribbles per match between them in the Champions League, and along with 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe create one of the most lethal counter-attacking forces in Europe. Any City sluggishness will be punished. Monaco look a good price at 24/5 but backing goals is the way to go here.

Recommended Bet
Back over 3.5 goals at 17/10


Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid

Havertz v Simeone's defensive shape
Tuesday, 19:45,
Live on BT Sport 3

Leverkusen's 17-year-old attacking midfielder Kai Havertz has been making headlines over the last fortnight, providing three assists in his last two games - and all of them for Javier Hernandez. Finding the space to slip in Chicharito will be an extremely difficult task against Atletico's ultra-narrow defensive blockade, but Leverkusen have a secret weapon; Havertz's height.

The German playmaker, who is six feet and two inches, won 12 of 22 aerial challenges during his team's 3-1 victory at Augsburg last weekend. His aerial prowess will be crucial in disorganising Atletico as the German's attempt to counterattack. Quick transitions, via Havertz's head, could see Hernandez and Julian Brandt released into space before the visitors have time to fall back into their watertight formation.

The performances of Gabi and Koke will determine how successful Havertz is behind Hernandez. The highly-experienced Atletico pair average 4.2 tackles and 3.5 interceptions per match between them; they will need to improve on these stats to avoid a first-leg defeat on Tuesday.

Recommended Bet
Back Hernandez to score any time at 12/5


Sevilla v Leicester City

Nasri v Leicester's soft centre
Wednesday, 19:45,
Live on BT Sport 2

Jorge Sampaoli's constantly adapting, highly-sophisticated tactical approach is in direct contrast to Claudio Ranieri's, making it unlikely that the Premier League champions will progress to the quarter-finals. On Wednesday, Leicester's 4-4-2 will be pulled apart by Sampaoli's attacking wing-backs, which in-turn will create huge pockets of space in the middle for Samir Nasri to weave his magic.

Nasri, who controlled the game against Real Madrid last month (105 touches, 86 passes), should comfortably dominate against Leicester's disorganised midfield. Danny Drinkwater's poor form and Wilfred Ndidi's inexperience hands the hosts a big advantage, and the situation is made worse by the poor work-rate of Leicester's wingers.

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Sevilla attack down the wings more than any other team in La Liga (79%), and given Riyad Mahrez's unwillingness to defend this means both central midfielders will be forced to sprint across to the flanks. Expect that flat 4-4-2 to be pulled out of shape easily by Sampaoli's men, leaving Ranieri on the brink. With Sevilla a prohibitively short price to win, backing at least three goals will provide a better return.

Recommended Bet
Back over 2.5 goals at 4/5


Porto v Juventus

Pereira v Dybala
Wednesday, 19:45,
Live on BT Sport 3

Porto may be on a run of six successive victories but they face almost certain elimination by Juventus, who have recovered from a difficult winter thanks in-part to Paulo Dybala's performances. His individual battle with defensive midfielder Danilo Pereira could be key; the Portuguese must return from injury in time if the hosts are to have any chance of avoiding a drubbing on Wednesday.

Having amassed two goals and an assist in his last six matches, Pereira was full of confidence before picking up a minor injury. He makes 2.2 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per match (more than any other in the Porto squad), which makes him Nuno Espirito Santo's most important player in what will be a backs-to-the-wall performance.

Dybala, who hovers behind compatriot Gonzalo Higuain, netted a brace at the weekend in what was a dazzling individual display (one assist, four dribbles, seven crosses). Pereira is unlikely to successfully keep Dybala quiet for the full 90 minutes.

Recommended Bet
Back Juventus to win at 5/4

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