Tactics: How the Champions League semi-finalists line up

This season’s Champions League semi-finalists reached the last four with an average aggregate winning margin in the quarter-finals of four goals, making them the most comfortable set of semi-final qualifiers in the Champions League era (post-1992).

The diagrams below depict their tactical line-ups from the first legs of their quarter-final ties, before there were any leads to be defended or deficits to be overturned.

NB: The diagrams show average positions from the first half of matches only, so as to provide a clear indication of how the teams approached each game in terms of formation.

Schalke: 4-4-1-1

The average positions of Schalke's players in the first half of their 5-2 victory at Internazionale in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final; UEFA

[Squad numbers: 1. Manuel Neuer; 22. Atsuto Uchida, 4. Benedikt Höwedes, 32. Joël Matip, 2. Hans Sarpei; 17. Jefferson Farfán, 14. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, 18. José Manuel Jurado, 11. Alexander Baumjohann; 7. Raúl; 9. Edu]

Manchester United: 4-2-3-1

The average positions of Manchester United's players in the first half of their 1-0 victory at Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final; UEFA

[Squad numbers: 1. Edwin van der Sar; 21. Rafael, 5. Rio Ferdinand, 15. Nemanja Vidić, 3. Patrice Evra; 16. Michael Carrick, 11. Ryan Giggs; 25. Antonio Valencia, 10. Wayne Rooney, 13. Park Ji-Sung; 14. Javier Hernández]

Real Madrid: 4-2-3-1

The average positions of Real Madrid's players in the first half of their 4-0 victory at home to Tottenham in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final; UEFA

[Squad numbers: 1. Iker Casillas; 4. Sergio Ramos, 3. Pepe, 2. Ricardo Carvalho, 12. Marcelo; 14. Xabi Alonso, 24. Sami Khedira; 22. Ángel di María, 23. Mesut Özil, 7. Cristiano Ronaldo; 28. Emmanuel Adebayor]

Barcelona: 4-3-3

The average positions of Barcelona's players in the first half of their 5-1 victory at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final; UEFA

[Squad numbers: 1. Víctor Valdes; 2. Dani Alves, 16. Sergio Busquets, 3. Gerard Piqué, 21. Adriano; 14. Javier Mascherano, 6. Xavi, 15. Seydou Keita; 7. David Villa, 10, Lionel Messi, 8. Andrés Iniesta]

8 Responses to “Tactics: How the Champions League semi-finalists line up”

  • Colm:

    Hi Tom,

    Really enjoy your blog. Given your interest in tactics and diagrams, I was wondering if you’re aware of the Total Football app? http://www.totalfootballapps.com

    Currently it covers the Champions League, providing match stats, chalkboards and visualisations. You can see some chalkboards from the app on Zonal Marking’s coverage: http://www.zonalmarking.net/2011/04/13/tottenham-0-1-real-madrid-tactics/

    Cheers!
    Colm

  • Tom, nice article…

    Got one question for you: Why do you list Schalke as 4411 and MUFC as 4231? I’ve only seen Schalke in the CL but have watched MUFC much more in the EPL and I don’t really notice a significant difference in their formations. Does Raul play higher than Rooney and Schalke’s outside mids deeper than MUFC’s?

    MUFC should almost be listed 4-4-Rooney-1 since Rooney can be found all over the place

    • Tom:

      Yes, it comes down to the differences in positioning – and on-pitch activity – between Raul and Rooney. When he plays alongside Hernandez, Rooney tends to be deployed much deeper. As you point out, he pops up all over the pitch, and in the second leg against Chelsea he attempted 64 passes, which was more than any other player in the game apart from John O’Shea and Florent Malouda:

      http://www.uefa.com/newsfiles/ucl/2011/2007737_pd.pdf

      Raul, however, tends to play much closer to his strike partner. Against Inter on Wednesday he only attempted 31 passes, which was fewer than 12 other players and shows that he was much less involved in his side’s build-up play (despite that exquisite scooped pass to Howedes for Schalke’s second goal).

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