Champions League preview: Chelsea and Real Madrid look to the wings

ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses the StatsZone app – from FFT & Opta, available now – to preview Tuesday night's Champions League action...

APOEL Nicosia v Real Madrid, Tue 19:45No-one is giving APOEL much hope ahead of their clash with Real Madrid, but Jose Mourinho will have briefed his players about the threat of each of the home side’s attackers. They have the frustrating but exciting Brazilian Ailton up front and the creative talent of Ivan Trickovski just behind. They also have the option of Esteban Solari – younger brother of former Madrid winger Santiago – if they want to go with two strikers.

But they’ll probably play just one, in a defensive-minded 4-2-3-1 system. From there, they like to break quickly down the flanks, and it’s the wingers that Real Madrid will need to keep an eye on. Indeed, the two wide players have combined for APOEL’s two most important goals of their Champions League campaign so far: the winner against Porto in the group stage that secured progress, and then the winner in the second leg of the second round against Lyon, which forced the tie to a penalty shoot-out won by APOEL.

For both goals, Constantinos Charalambides has stormed down the right before squaring the ball across the box for Gustavo Manduca coming onto the ball unmarked at the far post. Manduca is suspended for the first leg after getting sent off after Lyon (his first yellow card was for taking his shirt off while celebrating) and Trickovski might move over to that side – but the danger remains, and Madrid's full-backs might be more cautious than usual in the first leg in Cyprus.

Benfica v Chelsea, Tue 19:45Andre Villas-Boas was committed to attack: plenty of ball possession, a high defensive line and lots of pressing in midfield. Chelsea weren’t accustomed to that, and although it’s difficult to see precisely what Roberto di Matteo’s plan for the side is, they seem a more pragmatic side under the Italian, more reminiscent of the Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti days.

That means they’re likely to play a deeper game against Benfica, based around counter-attacking rather than constant possession. Judging from Benfica’s two games in the second round against Zenit St Petersburg, Chelsea should have plenty of chances to win the ball and break quickly: only 11 of the Portuguese side’s 38 take-ons were successful.

The main offenders? Right-back Maxi Pereira lost the ball seven times in the tie against Benfica, as did wide player Nico Gaitan. The latter can play on either flank, or in the middle, but will probably play on the right – which means that being secure down the left then breaking quickly down that side should be one of Di Matteo’s instructions.

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