Champions League tactical preview: Man Utd to beat PSG again

Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Solskjaer can do the double over PSG on Wednesday

Alex Keble takes a look at the fifth round of Champions League group stage fixtures, predicting another big win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer..

"Ajax’s Dusan Tadic has been in superb form this season, and he will be backed up at Anfield by Nicolas Tagliafico, which should present the Dutch side with a chance to overload and overwhelm Liverpool."

Simeone's formation change means tighter game

Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport ESPN

Atletico Madrid were thumped 4-0 in Munich when these sides last met, but Diego Simeone's team are in a much stronger position ahead of this crucial fixture for the hosts. A recent shift to a 3-4-2-1 formation should make Atletico avoid the same mistakes and keep things tighter at the back, whereas in a 4-4-2 Bayern's wingers easily cut through the flanks.

Atletico were surprisingly confrontational for long periods, attempting to squeeze the space in central midfield and in turn ensuring Kingsley Coman could dribble past his man and move into the final third unchallenged. Atletico will have learnt from that error and, at the Wanda, will be happy to hold as little as 30% of the ball - as they did in a recent 1-0 win over Barcelona.

A back three allows Atletico's wing-backs to get tight to Coman and Serge Gnabry without losing their shape, as happened repeatedly in Munich, while inside forward Marcos Llorente can drop back to form a midfield three, stunting Thomas Muller's influence. The most likely outcome, then, is a very low scoring game.

Counter-attacks suggest goals in Germany

Borussia Monchengladbach v Inter Milan
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport Extra 2

Antonio Conte's side have been struggling for form, occasionally unable to find any fluency through midfield as Conte's defensive instincts begin to hold them back in Serie A. However, Alexis Sanchez and Lautaro Martinez linked up superbly on the counter-attack last weekend, handing Sassuolo their first defeat of the season by breaking in behind after absorbing pressure.

Inter held just 34% possession in that game, which could be repeated against Borussia Monchengladbach, who will look to dominate. This will be an issue for the Germans, particularly given they are vulnerable on their right-hand side, the area that Ivan Perisic will attack from left wing-back. Stefan Lainer and Matthias Ginter struggled in a recent 4-3 defeat to a Bayer Leverkusen side inspired by Moussa Diaby on the break.

That should give confidence to Perisic and Inter's front two. However, having conceded 10 goals in their last five games prior to the weekend win over Sassuolo, the Italian outfit are clearly vulnerable to the likes of Marcus Thuram and Breel Embolo. I'm backing an end-to-end game with plenty of goals.

antonio conte gesture 1280.jpg

Tadic and Tagliafico a problem for weakened Liverpool

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

For the first half of Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Brighton, Graham Potter's side managed to repeatedly get balls in behind the defence, with Aaron Connolly making great runs in between Nat Philips and Neco Williams, the two weakest points of an injury-hit defence. Ajax will have been watching with interest.

Ajax's Dusan Tadic has been in superb form this season, and he will be backed up at Anfield by Nicolas Tagliafico, which should give the Dutch side a chance to overload and overwhelm Liverpool on that side of the pitch. Jurgen Klopp may pick James Milner at right-back to strengthen this zone, but nevertheless Liverpool will lack speed or cohesion on that side.

Liverpool's record at Anfield speaks for itself, however, and with so much on the line Klopp will pick Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino together. These three ought to have enough to pierce an Ajax defence that are not used to being forced onto the back foot for long periods of time. Back Liverpool to win a high-scoring game.


Solskjaer's 3-5-2 to stunt PSG

Man Utd v PSG
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Manchester United outwitted Paris Saint-Germain in the reverse fixture earlier in the season thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deploying his usual counter-attacking approach. United were allowed to sit deep in Paris, absorbing pressure from a misfiring PSG and then breaking behind Thomas Tuchel's disorganised back four. There is every reason to assume United will repeat that tactical performance.

Solskjaer moved to a 3-5-2 formation that was perfectly suited to exposing PSG's flaws. With both full-backs pouring forward, United had two strikers who could split either side of the centre-backs to receive long balls into the channels. And with wing-backs dropping to make a back five, United had enough bodies out wide to stop Angel di Maria and Neymar from finding the space to create chances.

United have repeatedly shown themselves adept at keeping things tight defensively and countering via Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. Bruno Fernandes has a crucial role to play and his head-to-head with Idrissa Gueye promises to be a fascinating battle. After the confidence boost of their comeback against Southampton win on Sunday, back United to win another big Champions League game.

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