Champions League preview: How to beat Barcelona, and why APOEL are successful

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

Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona (Tuesday 7.45pm GMT)Barcelona don’t lose many matches in the Champions League under Pep Guardiola, but one opposition coach who defeated them insists that the key to getting the better of the reigning champions is shooting from long range.

“I noticed that Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, key players in the team, almost never drop back to their own penalty box,” says Kurban Berdyev, whose Rubin Kazan side defeated Barcelona at the Camp Nou two years ago. “This style of play in the midfield creates free space for shots from the middle range.”

Leverkusen have just the man for this job in forward Andre Schurrle. In their home Champions League games so far this season, he’s had a shoot on sight policy, attempting plenty of shots from distance against Valencia and Genk. Barcelona might be more defensive away from home, but after Guardiola rested Xavi and Iniesta at the weekend, they should start here and might leave the space that Berdyev talks about.

Lyon vs APOEL (Tuesday 7.45pm GMT)APOEL are the surprise package in the second round after topping a strong group featuring Zenit St Petersburg, Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk. The Cypriot champions play a defensive, counter-attacking game, depending upon good movement up front in their 4-2-3-1 system.

Main striker Ailton drifts to the channels and looks for balls over the top, with willing support from three attacking midfielders. Konstantinos Charlambidis hugs the right touchline and Gustavo Manduca enjoys playing on the left, although central attacking midfielder Ivan Trickovski can switch with either.

Because APOEL play almost exclusively on the break, they generally only attack with those front four players. The two holders, Nuno Morais and Helio Pinto, don’t really join in breaks; instead, they take it in turns to pivot out towards the touchline – the Portuguese duo’s initial movement is generally towards the wing, from where they play direct forward passes.

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