Ernesto Valverde tactics give Barcelona advantage, but keep Man United in the tie

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An 12th-minute own goal from Luke Shaw condemned Manchester United to a 1-0 defeat against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Luis Suarez’s header across goal from Lionel Messi‘s cross took a deflection off Shaw and wound up in the far corner as the Catalans took the lead at Old Trafford.

Diogo Dalot missed a glorious opportunity in the first half, but United failed to create much else. Barca seemed content with their solitary away goal as well, settling for the narrow win.

Here, we analyse Ernesto Valverde’s tactical input.

BASIC STATS

Goals – 1

Shots – 6

Shots on target – 3

Possession – 64%

Dribbles – 7

Tackles – 9

Aerials won – 4

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Lack of pace

United were chasing the game for the last quarter of an hour and as the final whistle approached, they committed more numbers forward. They had even switched from three to four at the back and got men in the box to attack crosses.

Barcelona dealt with the aerial assault exceptionally, but when the opportunities to break quickly arrived, they weren’t equipped to punish United and perhaps even kill off the tie. Ousmane Dembele is on his way back from injury and was deemed unfit to start.

But he was on the bench so Valverde may have missed a trick by not introducing him for a cameo in the closing stages. Failing that, even Malcom would’ve added a bit of zip on the break.

GOT RIGHT

United were steadily growing in confidence, especially at the start of the second half. Valverde reacted by throwing Arturo Vidal and Sergi Roberto on for Philippe Coutinho and Arthur.

That brought a shift in formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.

Granted, they sacrificed a bit in attack but a compact midfield was able to contain United and on the ball, play it around them albeit with little penetration.

GOT WRONG

The suspicion with this Barcelona side is that they can be pretty ordinary in the absence of Messi. The Argentine was on the field on this occasion and played a part in his side’s goal but was otherwise largely anonymous.

With Messi not at his best, Valverde needed to help his side create different avenues to goal. He might’ve done so by calling on Carles Alena earlier in the game.

The midfielder is a fine dribbler and his ability to carry the ball into enemy territory would’ve asked more questions of a makeshift United back-line. Instead, the Barca boss played it safe and hoped Messi would conjure a moment of manage while focusing on negating United’s threat.

VERDICT

A win away from home is an excellent result, but Barca fans will feel Valverde could’ve encouraged his side to do even better. There are question marks over his substitutions as well which were rather safe.

That said, he left nothing to chance defensively and ensured his team left Old Trafford with the advantage.

Rating 7/10

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