Braga 2-0 Lech Poznań

The first half formations.

Andrzej Gomołysek watched Poland’s last representatives in European competition suffer a disappointing exit.

Lech blew a 1-0 lead from the first leg of this last-32 Europa League tie to limp out of the competition and miss out on a money-spinning tie against Liverpool.

Spanish coach José María Bakero set his side out in a 4-2-3-1, albeit with a striker playing on the left wing and a full-back on the right. Thus, the 48-year-old tried retaining the system which brought them that crucial first leg win last week, but didn’t have the performers to make it work a second time.

Cautious Lech’s tactics didn’t venture beyond long punts to lone Bosnian frontman Semir Štilić. As if the lack of creativity shown by the Polish side wasn’t bad enough, the inability to use any of these balls was – the striker received next to no support. In fairness to Braga, they pressed in numbers and sharply, minimising the amount of time the opposition had to pick out a pass. Continue reading

Sibir Novosibirsk-PSV

Sibir vs PSV could be a tactically intriguing contest. Akin to Diego Forlán at the recent World Cup, Ola Toivonen has been pivotal in the oppositions's corridor between midfield and defence so far this season. In the space of four days, both De Graafschap and Scotland have fallen foul of his charms, and his impeccably timed ghosts to the edge of box resulted in a hat-trick on the weekend. Yet with Balázs Dzsudzsák's absence denying PSV the crucial left-footed wideman option, two right-footers on the channels could play into the home side's hands. Cramping the centre would nullify the left winger's cuts inside, and land-mine Toivonen's hunting ground.

PSV Eindhoven sit atop the Eredivisie table after two rounds of the 2010/11 season, but continental competition-wise, must contend UEFAs second-class competition after a disappointing campaign last season.

Fans of the Philips-owned giants are accustomed to Champions League football, and resultantly, the prospect of a tie 5,000 miles away on a Thursday evening must be difficult to muster up enthusiasm for.

Therefore, fans of the Lowland outfit, so recently semi-finalists in UEFAs primary tournament, don’t really know how to respond to their side’s participation.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Dutch club’s latest opponents, Sibir Novosibirsk. Rock bottom in Russia during a season 15 rounds older than its Dutch counterpart, the Europa League offers welcome respite. Continue reading

Five lesser known Hungarians

The formations and line-ups for the famous 1953 meeting at Wembley

Following May’s 3-0 defeat to Germany, Hungary terminated the contract of coach Erwin Koeman. The new man, Sándor Egervári, begans his tenure next week with an not particularly highly anticipated fixture against England at Wembley.

For next Wednesday’s fixture, the Dutchman’s successor has picked a squad containing stellar names, newbies and trusted veterans.

Akin to the lack of enthusiasm England’s media, public and managers are giving this tie in the build-up, Egervári has named a suitably unspectacular squad.

Fabio Capello’s players have one eye lingering on the imminent Premier League campaign, while Egervári picked his squad knowing that his nation’s U21 game against Bosnia is of greater importance.

Nevertheless, Football League fans will recognise the likes of Zoltán Gera, Ákos Buzsáky, Gábor Király, Márton Fülöp and Tamás Priskin, all of whom will feature at Wembley.

In order to bolster the casual fan’s knowledge of what other players lie in store for England,  allow me to introduce five players likely to cause problems to the 1966 world champions on Wembley’s woeful turf. Continue reading

Marko Pantelić

Pantelić's position in a typical 2009/10 Ajax XI.

It’s unlikely anyone has a passport bearing more wrinkles than the Serbian striker’s.

Cravings for a long-term deal went unfulfilled by cash-strapped Ajax and leave the veteran hunting what would be his 12th club.

Changing team doesn’t just involve moving city for Pantelić, as the 31-year-old tends to combine a change of scenery with a change of country.

His passport has also been stamped in exotic climes while on international duty – summons which have only arrived in great frequency recently.

Capped 34 times, Pantelić has scored for his country in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Algeria, and South Africa.

Goals have also been scored in European club competition; outfits from Albania, Croatia, Moldova, Romania, Russia and Slovenia the victims. Continue reading

Attackers abound at Zenit

ohhhh Danny Boy, I love you so...

Danny

After 11 rounds of a 34-game season, the Russian Premier League is having a breather. The campaign continues later this month, and top of the perch, with a game to spare, are Zenit St Petersburg.

Life’s going well in Eastern Europe for Luciano Spalletti right now, with seven wins, three draws, three goals against and a Russian Cup victory to his name.

Taking to the Italian’s 4-2-3-1 like the proverbial water-finding duck, St. Petersburg are blessed with some of Europe’s most mesmerising midfielders.

Chief among them is €30m man Danny. Exceptional technique, poise, pace, composed finishing and killer through-passes make the Portuguese international Zenit’s key player.

Alas, the long-haired superstar will miss several games when the league resumes due to World Cup selection. Currently one of the continent’s most in-form players, Portugal’s gain is his club’s side loss. Continue reading

How do you solve a problem like Diego?

Mr Del Neri

Gigi Del Neri

New Juventus coach Gigi Del Neri did an impeccable job with Sampdoria last season. The port city side finished 4th, claiming a Champions League berth at the expense of Del Neri’s new employers in the process.

Juventus’s woes stemmed from the fact that rookie coach Ciro Ferrara struggled tactically, and constant tinkering with his system cost Juve points and Ferrara his job.

Short-term replacement Alberto Zaccheroni also tried implementing too many formations after he came in, and after losing 15 times in a 38-game season, Juventus were lucky to eventually finish in 7th.

Sampdoria, meanwhile, found a system, stuck by it, and soared beyond their pre-season Europa League-spot target. Yet rather than enjoying the fruits of his labour with the 1990/91 Scudetto winners, Del Neri will lead Juventus’s revival.

The Bianconeri failed at incorporating central-playmaker Diego at the core of every system wheeled out last season. Worryingly for the €24.5m signing, Del Neri would have no room for him in his 4-2-2-2. So does this spell the end for the ex-Bremen man’s time at the club already? Continue reading