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Celtic vs. Sporting Clube de Portugal: Preview

July 21, 2010

As this is our last pre-season friendly before the Champions League Qualifiers begin, it is reasonable to suggest that the team which starts against Sporting is likely to be the same one to face Braga. If not then there should at least be a period in the game where the eleven out on the pitch are those who play next week. The things that we try in the game – e.g. off the ball runs, where and when we press, set piece routines (etc.) – have probably been prepared with Braga in mind.

So what should we look out for?

1.THE PLAYERS USED:

There are a number of slots that could still be up for grabs. Starting with the full-backs, will Mulgrew start at left-back, or has the young Misun played himself into Lennon’s first team plans? On the other side we have seen Wilson play but he could be replaced by Cha Du-Ri, particularly as a number of our attacking and countering moves in the Man Utd game involved the right-back.

Then there is the centre of defence. At the moment it seems most likely that Hooiveld will be in the team, though that isn’t a certainty.Nor is his likely partner, with anyone from Rogne, Loovens or O’Dea also in contention.

Up front is probably easier to predict (when looking at who we have right now). We’ll probably go with one forward, with the most likely candidate Fortune. Again though, this isn’t a certainty with Lennon’s recent “food for thought” comments about Samaras or the rumoured signing of Gary Hooper.

2.THE FORMATION:

The midfield is probably the key area to pay attention to here and so the personnel that it is composed of have been included here (rather than in 1.THE PLAYERS). As one forward seems most likely, he’ll be accompanied by five midfielders. The composition of this will be important to pay attention to.

4-3-3-variant?

We started the Man Utd game with three central players (one slightly deeper than the other two)  and two wide men – a flexible 4-3-3 that became 4-5-1, 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-1-1 at times. If we go with this it seems most likely that Ledley will start as one of the more advanced central midfielders and Maloney one of the two wide men. Brown will probably be the other of the two advanced central midfielders, though he is a slight doubt due to an injury he picked up. The deep slot seems like a direct battle between Marc Crosas and Ki Sung-Yong. Crosas played well against Man Utd, with good use of the ball, but was less impressive against Seattle. A five man midfield, with the higher number of passing options available, is more beneficial to a player of his type than the four used against Seattle, however. He seems more settled in the side than Ki and so is probably the more likely to start – though the Sporting game will give us a clue.

If we do go with 4-3-3, then there a number things within that setup to look out for. The first is counter-attacks with the 4-3-3 against Man Utd mostly setup to practice them. Firstly, look for the shape when defending (Fig.1, below):

Fig.1: 4-3-3 defensive shape

As the image shows, we used a 4-4-1-1  shape when defending. The compositon varies mostly due to which side of the pitch the opposition attack comes from. Pay attention to how quickly we transition from defence to attack, which is dependant on whether the better ball players are involved. When they aren’t the counter can breakdown and the pressure from the other team can be sustained. Also, when we do counter look at how Fortune sometimes peels away to the opposite side to which it begins.

Another key to the counter attacks could be the right-back, look for how often he becomes an outball. If it is a regular occurrance then Cha Du-Ri is likely to play, if not then maybe Wilson will get the nod. Even so, the regularity with which Wilson found himself in good positions against Man Utd (which he was largely unable to capitalise on) suggest he still could be used, with Cha Du-Ri perhaps not settled in yet.

If the right-back does get forward, look for the right-sided central midfielder (probably Brown) covering for him and the right winger (James Forrest? He looks like he could be ready) drifting in-field.

When attacking, look for the 1-4-1 shape of attacking players, (Fig.2, below) which varies as such:

Fig.2: The 1-4-1 attacking shape.

The image shows the two most used variations of this 1-4-1 attacking shape which we used against Man Utd. As shown, when Wilson got forward Brown covered for him. There were also occasions where Fortune came deep to pick up the ball, leaving space up front. This space was often then filled by James Forrest or Shaun Maloney, allowing us to retain this shape.

4-2-3-1?

This system could make it more likely that Ki will play, as he is seemingly more comfortable as one of two deep midfielders, the other player giving him more protection. That said, Crosas looked good in this role in the 2nd half against Man Utd. Again, it’ll probably be a straight choice between the two. The other will be Joe Ledley.

Ahead of them Maloney is almost a certainty as the player in ‘the hole’ behind the striker – though McCourt has an outside chance. His movement ‘between the lines’ was very good against Man Utd. The uncertainty concerns the other two players. Forrest is an option on the right, though if we want to be defensive there’s a chance that Brown could play here for his tracking back and to provide extra cover for the right-back’s possible surges forward. Samaras is an option on the left – his best position, though moreso in a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-3-3 – and his extra height could be an advantage in the box when attacks come from the other side.

Though 4-2-3-1 can provide just as good counter-attacking options as 4-3-3 (e.g. Germany in the World Cup) – with our right-back again being key to them – the one which we used against Man Utd was more about building attacks carefully with short passing than moving the ball quickly. Whichever formation we use may give an indication as whether we will look to counter or to dominate possession.

Again, look for the 1-4-1 attacking shape (Fig.2, above) . We used it in both the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 formations against Man Utd. On top of this, look for the triangles and diamonds created by the 4-2-3-1 and possibly greater variety of types of runs from deep into the box than in the 4-3-3.

Don’t dwell on the result

Unless the Sporting game results in an absolute drubbing, one shouldn’t dwell too much on the result if we don’t win. Most of what we try will be for use in the Braga game and so won’t necessarily be suitable against Sporting – there may be similarities to their play, being Portuguese, but no two teams are the same. Obviously, a win should be celebrated!

Due to outside circumstances, there may not be an analysis to the Sporting game or if there is it could be a day or two late. Hopefully, this preview will go some way to making up for this.

P.S. Sporting Clube De Portugal their accurate name and apparently they don’t take kindly to being referred to as Sporting Lisbon, hence the use of the former.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. ajaxbhoy permalink
    July 21, 2010 3:50 pm

    Another insightful piece; looking forward to the match tonight to see how it turns out.

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