By Stevie Grieve
Evra pressing out of the defensive line to close down Messi, Rakitic or Alves at RW
As Messi plays the deepest of the Barcelona front 3, Patrice Evra was tasked to push out of the defensive line and play close to Messi, usually with Paul Pogba but often with Vidal close to Messi (Pogba moved to RM on 30 minutes for 6 minutes then back to LM).
When Evra pressed ahead of the defensive line, it often would leave a large space for Suarez, Alves or Rakitic to move into, which would draw the Juve defensive line over and leave them ‘over compact’ and vulnerable to a switch of play, particularly from Messi to Neymar or Jordi Alba.
Messi has been closed down but not enough to impact where he will dribble into and release the ball as the exit diagonally hasn’t been sufficiently closed enough as the compactness of the block is not tight enough. We can see clearly Barcelona’s 2-4-1-3 (Pique and Mascherano on half way line) and are able to retain possession with stability deep in midfield from here.
Here, Dani Alves and Rakitic are wide with Messi inside, in a 4v3 situation, Messi tracked by Pirlo who moves forward but the gap between Evra and Barzaghli is still open for Suarez or Rakitic to move into. Alves is forced into turning towards the touchline and Juventus can recover the ball with the throw in.
This time we can see Juventus almost in a situational 3-4-3 situation with Evra on the same line as Marchisio, Pirlo and Pogba, with Vidal moving closer to Busquets as Tevez plays close to Messi.
Rakitic has drifted into the channel that Evra has left to move forward onto the midfield line, which has drawn Barzaghli over and away from Bonucci, meaning Neymar can drag Liechtsteiner inside and open up the far side space for Jordi Alba who can play 2v1 with Neymar if the switch of play is made.
Closing the space around Messi to prevent penetrating dribbles from right-centre
When Messi was in possession, normally Paul Pogba was tasked with using his power and athletic ability to try and help Evra stop Messi, with Pirlo inside all in close proximity to Messi, often leaving a gap behind Evra which usually Rakitic or Suarez would drift into, pulling over Barzaghli, Bonucci and Liechtsteiner as the defensive chain across the line. Occasionally, we would see Vidal drop into the low 4-4-2 block and play left centre midfield and be close to Messi in place of Pogba.
Often, this would result in ‘over compactness’ on the ball side, leaving Barcelona able to attack the far side via a right-centre to left side switch to Neymar or Jordi Alba who would start from deep in a shape almost resembling a 3-4-1-2 if Alves stayed deep.
Here we can see both Vidal and Evra close to Messi, with Morata and Pirlo helping block Messi’s space to move inside. Juventus here are weak against a switch of play as the far side full back, Liechtsteiner has had to tuck into the centre back position as the defensive chain is dragged over by the movement of Suarez behind Evra who presses out of his defensive line to play closer to Messi.
This time we see Evra in a very wide position with Pogba in line with Messi as Juventus block all diagonal entries into the final 3rd from the right side channel with Alves in Rakitic’s RCM position and Rakitic close to Suarez to play in the space between Marchisio and Pirlo to help open up the space on the right side and offer a straight pass through the midfield to attack the penalty box.
Tevez and/or Morata dropping into left midfield to form a 4-1-4-1
When Alves and Rakitic were able to gain some momentum down the right hand side, Carlos Tevez or Alvaro Morata would occasionally drop deep to form a block of 4 across the field and as a result, force Barcelona into periods of passive circulation to try and draw Juventus forward to create space.[wpsharely id="2988"][/wpsharely]
Here we can see a clear 4-1-4-1 from Juventus, blocking the middle and forcing play backwards with Tevez v Alves, protecting Pogba who is dealing with Messi and can’t be caught out 2v1 by Alves.