Champions League preview: Space behind Ivanovic could be Chelsea's undoing

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

Chelsea’s problem in the first leg of their tie with Napoli was down their right, where Branislav Ivanovic played an extremely attacking role and constantly left space in behind himself – exploited gleefully by Argentine left-sided forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, who scored two goals and also missed an excellent chance at 2-1.

The pattern of interceptions shows that Chelsea were good at winning the ball down their left, but completely bare on the right, where Ivanovic wasn’t helped by the advanced positioning of Daniel Sturridge. This helped Napoli find plenty of time and space down that side. Their three goals, and most of their shots, came from an inside-left position.

Chelsea have a new coach, of course, but Roberto Di Matteo will be well aware of Napoli’s threat on the break. Chelsea need two goals, but must make sure not to leave too many gaps at the back – in particular, in that right-back zone.

Midfield duo Pontus Wernbloom and Yevgeny Aldodin contributed to a fine first leg performance for CSKA Moscow side against Real Madrid, with the Russian side snatching a 1-1 draw on their own patch.

The two were theoretically playing alongside each other as the holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system, but the dashboard of their performances shows they play completely different roles. Aldodin plays quite high up the pitch and is reliable with his passing, knocking the ball gently from side to side, but he rarely helps out defensively.

Wernbloom, on the other hand, plays an all-action defensive midfield role. It’s notable that his patterns of interceptions, tackles and fouls cover the entire width of the pitch, and he’s effectively forced to do the defensive work of two central midfielders.

It’s a thankless tash – but Wernbloom got his glory by popping up at the end to score the equaliser, and CSKA now have hope going into the second leg.

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