Netherlands vs Canada

Netherlands vs Canada Preview: First Test For Outside Chancers

The Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims will witness a meeting between two teams in very similar positions, both in terms of their standing in world football and their position in Group E.

Netherlands vs Canada could easily be a quarter or semi-final, and could well be the latter if both are still in the tournament come July, but the two teams will have to continue to improve as they progress for this to happen.

To watch Canada in the early rounds of this tournament is to watch a team doing a job, and little more. This brand of football can be dismissed as functional and not the type which will win a tournament, but in truth functional teams can, and often do, end up winning trophies. The Canadians are one of only three teams in the World Cup to have kept a clean sheet in all of their matches so far, after all.

A big test of Canada’s credentials will come against the Netherlands. It will be the first time they have faced a team on a similar level to themselves, and the same can be said of their opponents. Read More

United States vs Thailand

United States vs Thailand: Defending Champions Face One Of Their Own

The United States are the defending champions going into the 2019 World Cup, having defeated Japan in the 2015 final in Vancouver. They kick off their campaign in France against the lowest ranked Asian side in the competition, Thailand, and will be expected to win comfortably.

The United States women’s national team are one of the country’s most successful sporting exports. While many of the big US sporting events and successes take place within the confines of national sports such as gridiron and baseball, this soccer team have dominated an international game, winning three World Cups and never finishing a tournament lower than third place.

They are a team of stars, the pride of the USA, but winning back to back World Cups won’t be easy and despite their dominance it’s something they are yet to do. Read More

Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool

Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool: View From The Press Box

As his side became the first to defeat Liverpool in the league this season, Pep Guardiola was asked why he changes his tactics when he plays them. It was a bold question, and one which was thrown straight back by the City manager.

“What did I change today? From the way we normally play? At Anfield I would agree with you, here no way”

“More direct?” came the reply, and Guardiola explained why this may have appeared to be the case.

“Yeah they stay high, we spoke with [Raheem] Sterling and Leroy [Sane] to make runs in behind.”

“Today I have the feeling we tried to do what we have done in sixteen months, that is my feeling but maybe I’m wrong.”

He had played a different system in the draw at Anfield earlier in the season, using Bernardo Silva as a holding player in a 4-2-3-1 but here he took a risk, and commented that if Fernandinho did not win his duels his defence would be isolated against some of the best attacking players in the world. Read More

Liverpool 1-0 Napoli

Liverpool 1-0 Napoli: View From The Press Box

Liverpool made a number of changes for this must-win Champions League tie against Napoli, altering their personnel and their formation from the weekend’s Premier League meeting with Bournemouth.

In that game Jürgen Klopp had gone with a mixed formation which resembled his 4-2-3-1, but in truth was more 4-2-2-2 or 4-4-1-1, using Naby Keita wide on the left, Shaqiri right, with Roberto Firmino dropping deeper than fellow forward Mohamed Salah.

For this crunch game it was back to the old favourite — 4-3-3 — and the old favourites, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum, against the 4-4-2 of Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli.

Liverpool tactics v Napoli

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Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United

View From The Press Box: Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United

Paul Pogba might be glad he got to watch this one from the stands. Some of Manchester City’s play mesmerised spectators and opposition alike, and with the injured Pogba falling into both of these categories he may not have known what to make of it.

The sky blue half of Manchester went home happy, having seen their manager, Pep Guardiola, outsmart the opposition, and their players win a Manchester derby with relative ease.

They weaved in and out, buzzing around the red obstacles using their quicker feet, sharper minds, and crisper passing to bamboozle their opponents.

The troubles United would have in this game were laid bare in the opening few minutes. David Silva and Bernardo Silva were finding acres of space, leaving the opposition unsure as to who should track them.

Manchester City regularly play with these dual attacking midfielders in a midfield three, but today they roamed back and forth, and ventured out wide, leaving opposing full-backs, defensive midfielders, and wingers unsure as to who should be keeping an eye on them. Read More

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City

View From The Press Box: City Used Napoli’s Sky-Blueprint To Tame Reds

Liverpool versus Manchester City was one of the most entertaining battles witnessed last season, both in terms of tactics and as a spectacle.

Jürgen Klopp’s side were the team which ended the eventual Premier League champions’ unbeaten run in January, and also knocked them out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage.

Pep Guardiola has had plenty of time to apply his meticulous research and preparation methods to this particular opposition, and even though Liverpool aren’t firing on all cylinders at the moment, he was able to make noticeable progress at Anfield, where Manchester City haven’t won since 2003.

When the lineups were released the unexpected change came in the Liverpool side. Dejan Lovren replaced Trent Alexander-Arnold meaning Joe Gomez would be shifted across to right back.

This suggested that Klopp might be going with a shape similar to the one they faced at Napoli in midweek, when Carlo Ancelotti used Nikola Maksimović as the right centre-back of a three when attacking and as a right-back in a four when defending. Read More

Manchester City 1-2 Lyon

View From The Press Box: Manchester City 1-2 Lyon

In a new feature for Twelve, James Nalton reports from the press box on Manchester City 1-2 Lyon.

For modern Manchester City, defeats are a rarity. When looking at the bigger picture, and the club’s history, that they are even competing in the Champions League is something. That they expect to win every game they play is something else. This is how far they have come in a short space of time but even though they rarely lose, defeat to Olympique Lyonnais means they have now lost their last four in this competition.

It was December of last year that Pep Guardiola’s side tasted defeat for the first time in the 2017/18 season, when they lost to wily European campaigners Shakhtar Donetsk. Their manager used the loss to spur his side on for the rest of the season, and though this latest disappointment has come earlier in the campaign, Guardiola will hope it has a similar effect.

Guardiola was serving a touchline ban as a result of being sent to the stands for complaining to the referee during his side’s defeat to Liverpool in the quarter-finals last season. Mikel Arteta took control, and it appeared that he’d been given a chance to take full responsibility, taking pre and post-match press conferences as well as leading the team from the touchline. Read More

Firmino and Aguero

A Striking Resemblance: Firmino and Aguero Lead The Way

Both Liverpool and Manchester City have made stylish starts to the new season, displaying brands of football which have prompted suggestions that the title race will be played out between these two North West sides (we’re not allowed to call them rivals yet).

Even though these teams have scored nine and seven goals respectively in their opening three games, doubts are still raised about their strikers, if not of their quality then of their role in the side.

While there are unique traits which separate Sergio Aguero and Roberto Firmino, neither are necessarily bad at the things the other gets praised for, and criticisms can be wide of the mark. They play in similar, if not completely identical, systems and both play a big part in the success of their teams. Read More