While Roma slipped to a 3-0 defeat at holders Real Madrid, Plzeň looked set to kick off with a victory. They opened up a two-goal lead on CSKA Moscow, only to concede twice in the second period – the equaliser a penalty deep into added time – to be pegged back to a 2-2 draw.
It’s a live-or-die game for both sides, and when we take a look at Twelve’s leader board for the opening matches, we can see how a comparison between their players would be disputed.
Czech forward Michal Krmencik leads with 2,519 points because of his two goals scored, a chance created pass and another two shots. The Czech Republic international striker likes to moves into the six yard box, bringing intensity and physical contact with the defenders. A predictable headache for Roma’s defensive system.
That system had Kostas Manolas as it’s best representative. The Greek centre-back scored 1,553 points not only because of his good defensive job against Real Madrid’s dangerous offensive system, but also due to his primordial work on attack with offensive passes and chances created.
He is the top scorer without shots or goals between both sides. For sure we will watch good duels between Krmencik and Manolas at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.
I’d like to put a light over forward Edin Džeko as well. He played in the Czech Republic for Teplice between 2005 and 2007, having a loan spell at Ústí nad Labem in 2005. The Bosnian striker, who can speak fluent Czech, scored 16 goals in 43 appearances for Teplice.
He also scored away (3-0) and home (4-2) as Manchester City beat Plzeň twice in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage, so he likes to play and score against Czech teams. Winning the love of the fans on Twelve’s leader board, Džeko scored 102 points with his two shots against Madrid.
Strategy has a second name: Di Francesco
Di Francesco is a very attacking coach and wants his team to dominate every game. His possession style is very vertically focused and he wants the side to progress the ball forward as quickly as possible. One important facet of Di Francesco’s tactics is the use of positional rotations in different areas of the field.
Normally this involves the central midfielders and the wingers rotating to change positions with the midfielder moving wide to open space for a pass into the half-space which the winger has moved into. This movement is the rotation most often used by Di Francesco’s Roma and maintains the balance in the positional structure while in possession but also causes confusion for an unprepared opponent.
Against Lazio in the Derby della Capitale last week, Roma played in a 4-3-3 with De Rossi as the base of a middle tripod with Nzonzi and Pastore in front. They were both making rotating moves with Kolarov and Florenzi.
Back to Twelve’s Champions League leader board, both Kolarov and Florenzi are the best players with the ball on the Italian side. The Serbian captain scored 426 points with the ball against Real Madrid, with good offensive passes and crosses from the left wing.
On the right side, Alessandro Florenzi also produced good offensive work against Madrid, scoring 398 points. For sure both Florenzi and Kolarov will be a dangerous threat to Pavel Vrba’s plans (which I believe will be to not to lose in Rome).
It’s only the second match, anything can happen
When the ball has been moved into the final third and it’s time to create chances and score goals, Di Francesco uses the wings as keys behind chance creation. Be it crosses or diagonal runs in-behind from wingers, the wide areas are vital to Di Francesco’s way of playing.
Despite having a 107-year history, Viktoria Plzen’s success has been largely limited to the last decade. They earned their first league title in 2011, and since then have been a fixture in European competition without ever threatening a great deal. Before that date, they had never finished higher than fifth since the Czech Republic was formed as an independent nation, and had embarked on just one European campaign; even that was by default, after the Czechoslovakian Cup winners were also league champions, allowing runners-up Plzen to enter the 1970-71 Cup Winners’ Cup.
After a good draw against CSKA Moscow, they are going to Rome to lock down on defense and try to come back with a point. Or even three. AS Roma are the favorites, but looking at Twelve’s off ball leader board, we can say it will not be a piece of (Italian) cake for Di Francesco’s ragazzi.