Champions league,Barcelona-Panathinaikos:Euro 2004 Vs Euro 2008By: Ramzi | September 14th, 2010
- Same old story. Number ten grabbing the ball and a defender grabbing number ten.
“Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek demigod Heracles, son of Jupiter (the Roman equivalent of Zeus), and the mortal Alcmena.“ (Wiki)
So here you go. Barcelona played the fake Hercules on Saturday, suffered a defeat, and today they host the original Greek Hercules at home for the first game in the Champions league. How fitting.
You can find a summary for all the records concerning the two clubs here. That’s the past. For tonight, Panathinaikos knows the deal, because everyone does. Against Barcelona you must not play for a draw, only a draw and nothing but a draw. If you do so, you will get slaughtered. You can play deep defense, High defense with pressure, seek and hide, it doesn’t matter. What matters is making the Catalans feel you are seriously considering scoring and winning. That’s when Barcelona’s defense get less secured – at least Pique and co contribute less offense wise- and that’s when Xavi start to get closer to defense line to bring the ball forward, and Messi start playing as a playmaker rather than a forward. We saw it before, right?
Hercules coach after the game said that he watched Barcelona’s semifinal against Inter while planning his team’s tactics against Barcelona. It worked. He claims his team performed the tactics better than Inter. I agree. Panathinaikos will study and memorize what Hercules did; can they repeat it even better?
Tzorvas, Marinos, Boumsong, Kante, Vintra, Katsouranis, Gilberto, Simao, Govou, Leto, Cisse.
Before the game starts, check their selection. The selection mentioned above means a Hercules plan. Defend deep and launch counter attacks with lot of pressure on Barcelona’s flanks. This selection will lead to a parked titanic. Barcelona may find it easier to move the ball forward through the Center with Busquets and Pique interchanging positions to break through Cisse’s pressure. Yet, when they approach Panathinaikos area, they will find no spaces leading to Pana’s net.
If Nioblias decided to use Ninis instead of Katsouranis, that’s a player with a better vision and offense skills. It means a balanced High pressure with sufficient power at the back. Moving the ball forward gets a bit more difficult as Pana’s players will work on disturbing Barca’s buildup, though Barcelona may find more spaces in the offense third.
I think the first option is more likely, with Simao marking Messi tightly while Katsouranis and Gilberto camp in front of their defense line, giving a chance for Govou and Leto to put pressure on Barcelona’s flanks both defensively, and when they counter attack. Cisse is their goal scorer and he can also put pressure dancing between Barcelona’s defenders. Karagounis will be a card Panathinaikos will have on the bench for the second half.
After Hercules defeat, we recorded the patterns that usually lead to Barcelona’s defeats. In his match review, Pedro made additional assumptions as well. Pep need to avoid falling in the traps feeding such patterns.
Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Villa, Pedro
This is not necessarily the best lineup. I believe our offense need a Keita in the midfield to run into the box –best option at the moment- or even a Busquets there while having Mascherano as a holding midfielder. But it is highly unlikely that Pep leaves Pedro out for three matches. Based on the selection above, Milito will be the only player who didn’t play against Hercules as well. Pep attention for details may lead him to use Milito in this match to avoid using him against Atletico. The Squad is small and Pep can’t afford having a player doubting his role.
Defensively, Abidal need to stay at the back more often than running forward. That will give Alves more freedom to move forward without leaving the defense exposed. On Alves flank, Panathinaikos will have one of their most dangerous players in Leto.
Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Alves, and Pique should be the players responsible of buildup. Messi, Villa and Pedro must NOT play behind the ball. Their role is to interchange positions as forwards trying to crack the positioning discipline of the opponent defense creating holes and getting advantage of it. Winning this game depend completely on how far they succeed in doing so. Pep may start Villa as a center forward or may start Messi. It won’t differ a lot because offense dynamics will depend on switches and fluidity.
Pep need to feel it when it is not working. Against Hercules his subs led to a permanent defeat. It happens. If the offense failed to damage, then plan B is needed. Put Keita on the field. Later in the match give Pique more room to move forward. Start by using the skillful magicians in Messi and Villa, but if it didn’t work, don’t hesitate to switch to the tanks.
Barcelona will seek a comeback after the weekend’s upset. Yet, they need patience and they need to avoid feeling the anxiety of not scoring early. Panathinaikos will play on the time factor and will get advantage of Barcelona’s mistakes if the players became too desperate to attack and forgot the defense duties. It’s a game that may go either way. When Barcelona scores early, they usually score more, and more. They can only hope that if they failed to score early, things will not go downhill.