The draw for the Champions League semi-finals has been made, and it has thrown up some fascinating tactical battles to look forward to.
We at Football Whispers have analysed both ties.
Attack Versus Defence?
Monaco and Juventus have garnered plaudits for vastly divergent reasons.
The former have achieved renown through their enterprising attacking, scoring 21 goals in 10 Champions League fixtures this season.
Meanwhile, the latter were lauded for a stout defensive display against Barcelona in the Camp Nou, as they kept Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar at bay to keep a clean sheet in their quarter-final second leg.
Defensively speaking, few teams are as organised and committed as Juventus.
The reigning Italian champions have for much of their recent history relied upon a fierce back three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini backed up by iconic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
This has altered slightly this season, with Barzagli making way as Massimiliano Allegri switched to a back four, but Juventus have retained their specialism without the ball.
Allegri’s side press well in high areas, looking to prevent the opposition from being able to build possession safely from the back.
This is particularly evident from opposition goal kicks.
However, Juventus are in their element when defending in deeper zones with a fairly passive press.
Their attackers will drop back centrally while their lines of midfield and defence will seal off any space between them.
The midfielders and attackers will shift position as a unit, while the defensive line man-marks rigorously.
This combination of shape and style ensures the suffocation of attacking moves.
Should the opposition look to play the ball into the final third, they must first penetrate a compact midfield line, and then fight off the attentions of Bonucci and Chiellini, who mark with an uncompromising tenacity.
However, while Juventus’ defensive play is arguably the best on the continent right now – in Europe’s major five leagues only Bayern have conceded fewer goals per game than they have – they should not be described as a purely defensive team.
Allegri’s side are also a fluid and dynamic attacking side with well-structured and effective movements of their own.
Dybala played as what some called a ‘nine-and-a-half’ last term, but has moved into a No.10 berth since Allegri brought in a 4-2-3-1 system earlier this year.
The 4-2-3-1 shape entails Gonzalo Higuaín leading the front line, with support coming out wide from Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado, who both perform hugely important roles up and down each flank both offensively and defensively.
Dybala roams in the space behind Higuain, often dropping diagonally to the right so that he can drive inwards at defences onto his favoured left foot.
With this movement in deeper areas, Dybala often drags his marker with him, opening up space behind.
He is also integral as Juventus seek to move the ball into the attacking third, as he wanders and creates connections with his midfield team-mates Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira.
An example of this is seen in the below image.
While Dybala is Juventus’ star on the pitch, Allegri is the star off it.
His flexibility means the team could just as easily be lined up in a 4-3-1-2 shape with a diamond midfield, or a 3-5-2 with wing-backs patrolling the flanks and numerical superiority in the centre, as they could a 4-2-3-1.
This will make the Italian side highly difficult for Monaco to prepare for.
While Monaco and Juventus have attracted headlines for different reasons, the teams have more in common than is perhaps initially apparent.
For starters, just like Juventus, Monaco play in a rough 4-2-3-1 shape that becomes a 4-4-2 defensively.
Centre-forward Falcao is supported by Kylian Mbappé, while wingers Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva drop back on either side of central midfielders Tiémoué Bakayoko and Fabinho to form a midfield four without the ball.
In addition, Monaco also opt for a more passive approach in their pressing.
Leonardo Jardim’s side operate with a policy of containment defensively: rather than defend intensely from the front in order to actively win the ball, they retain their shape and attempt to force the opposition into less dangerous areas of the pitch.
This policy begins with the intelligent positioning of Falcao and Mbappé, who occupy good central areas and maintain a short distance between one another.
This often means the opposition cannot pass effectively through to the middle third, and are instead shuffled out wide. Falcao and Mbappé’s positioning is shown in the image below.
Monaco move in accordance to the ball and don’t apply significant pressure to the opposition ball-player until in central midfield or central defensive areas.
If and when the opposition play the ball into these areas, Fabinho and Bakayoko, or centre-backs Jemerson and Kamil Glik, will harry and look to force mistakes.
Jardim’s side are dangerous going forward, though they are not reliant on having the ball—they have averaged just 51.2 per cent of possession in Ligue 1 this season.
Indeed, their defensive organisation is vital to their attacking threat, as it is through their forcing of mistakes that they tend to win the ball.
From there they will look to counter-attack, utilising the pace and skill of Bernardo Silva, Lemar and Mbappé, as well as the overlapping runs and intelligent crossing of full-backs Djibril Sidibé and Benjamin Mendy.
Sidibé and Mendy are adept in wide areas, knowing when to play balls behind the opposition defensive line for Falcao to attack using his aerial prowess, as well as when to pull back for team-mates lingering closer to the edge of the penalty area.
It isn’t a true one-on-one duel, but the performances of Dybala and Mbappé will no doubt have a huge bearing on who wins this tie.
Dybala’s flitting movement between the lines could take advantage of the gaps that occasionally open up between Monaco’s defence and midfield, while Real Madrid transfer target Mbappé’s raw pace could fluster the rugged but not particularly mobile Juventus defence.