La Liga & Serie A Tactical Preview: Barca to win but stalemate expected in Turin

Suarez is in sensational form for Barcelona this season.
Suarez is in sensational form for Barcelona this season.
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There are a pair of huge clashes in Europe this weekend, with the first El Clasico of the season as well as Milan's trip to Juventus so we asked Alex Keble for his tactical analysis and best bets...


"To some extent the tiki-taka model has been side-lined for an approach that gets the ball in behind the back four quickly; Barcelona have completed an average of 607 passes per match this campaign, down from 679 in 2014/15."

Real Madrid v Barcelona
Saturday, 17:15
Live on Sky Sports 2

The first El Clasico of the season is set to be a fantastic game. Barcelona and Real Madrid are separated by just three points at the top of the table and whilst injuries have fragmented the performances of both sides, Leo Messi, Karim Benzema, and James Rodriguez are all set to play a part in the world's most celebrated rivalry.

Messi's absence has seen Barcelona switch to a more direct, high tempo tactical approach that looks to utilise the manic charges of Luis Suarez and Neymar, who have scored 20 goals between them so far this season. To some extent the tiki-taka model has been side-lined for an approach that gets the ball in behind the back four quickly; Barcelona have completed an average of 607 passes per match this campaign, down from 679 in 2014/15.

This approach could be the key to unlocking Real Madrid, considering both right-back Danilo and Pepe have been in somewhat erratic form. Several of Madrid's recent goals conceded have been thanks to flat-footed positioning and missed tackles from these two, most notably in the 3-2 defeat to Sevilla - who fired balls down the flanks in a similar way Barcelona will on Saturday. Back Barcelona to win and over 2.5 goals at 5/2.

Real Madrid's own goalscoring threat has been weakened recently. Rafa Benitez has let Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Isco roam in free-roles, but this has only led to disjointed attacks in the final third. However, Bale is now at full fitness and Benzema could be given a starting role; returning to a wide 4-3-3 formation, Real should cause significant problems down the wings.

Jordi Alba and Dani Alves are Barcelona's weakest players; Bale and Ronaldo can flourish after long periods of Barcelona possession are broken up and those full-backs are caught in advanced positions. Back Ronaldo to score any time at 5/6.


Juventus v AC Milan
Saturday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 1

Despite harbouring ambitions for a title challenge at the beginning of the campaign, an error-strewn and fragmented opening three months has left both AC Milan and Juventus grappling frantically for a Champions' League place. The rise of Fiorentina and Roma has - perhaps - shaken Serie A from the long and dreary pattern of the scudetto shifting back and forth between Turin and Milan; the hunt for a top three finish promises to go to the wire, as games like Juventus v AC Milan take on a heightened significance.

Tactically, this is likely to be a cagey, claustrophobic match between two teams with contrasting styles but a similar psychological approach in the bigger games; Juventus and AC Milan sit fourth and fifth in the table for most fouls, respectively. Back under 2.5 goals at 13/20.

Massimiliano Allegri is known for his high energy, positionally fluid tactical system at Juventus, but even by his standards this season has seen a lot of formation changes. Most recently, they have switched to a wide 4-3-3 in an attempt to exploit their pace and trickery on the wings (13.0 dribbles per match, most in Serie A) with Juan Cuadrado leading by example.

Cuadrado (2.3 key passes, 2.6 dribbles per game) has amassed a goal and two assists in his last two games from the right wing, injecting a directness that Juventus have been crying out for. His opponent this weekend will be Luca Antonelli, a left-back in very good form so far this season; this could be the key battle on Saturday.

AC Milan are far more direct than Juventus, playing predominantly on the counter-attack (average 48% possession) and via long balls to the flanks (76% of attacks, the second highest in Serie A). It is for this reason that Allegri is likely to continue with the 4-3-3 and not revert back to the narrow diamond 4-4-2 so often used throughout his tenure; the pace of Giacamo Bonaventura will need to be nullified. Back the draw at 11/4.

Elsewhere, crosses into Carlos Bacca - Milan have scored the most headed goals in Serie A this season (five) - could be a key tactic given the congestion in a nervy game, particularly with Leonardo Bonucci's confidence fragile after a crucial error against Empoli. Back Bacca to score any time at 14/5.


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