Champions League preview: Fabregas adopts Xavi role, APOEL still have hope

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

Cesc Fabregas has often been fielded as part of a notional front three for Barcelona this season, but now is getting more playing time in his traditional midfield role.

Pep Guardiola was reportedly concerned that Fabregas was bringing too much directness and urgency to Barcelona’s play, and that he had become ‘too English’ from his eight years at Arsenal. That meant he was reluctant to field him in the midfield, because it meant Barcelona moved the ball too quickly towards goal, whereas the side is used to the patience of Xavi Hernandez.

But Barcelona’s first leg win over Leverkusen showed that Fabregas is capable of playing something close to the Xavi role – the direction of his passes was generally sideways, with a high completion rate, very different to a previous away performance in Europe, at Milan.

APOEL Nicosia, the clear outsiders in the round of 16, still have a chance of progression after losing only 1-0 to Lyon in the first leg of their second round tie.

They were extremely fortunate to get out of France with only a one-goal defeat, however. Lyon peppered the APOEL goal with 18 shots in the 90 minuts, whereas the away side only registered one attempt.

APOEL’s game is dependent upon counter-attacking, so they might find it difficult at home with Lyon sitting behind the ball, and with no need to attack. There’s also the problem that while a 1-0 win would be enough for APOEL to force extra time, if they concede the first goal, they then need three. With that in mind, this might be a slightly cagey second leg in Cyprus.

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