Champions League preview: Valbuena and Marseille aim to outnumber Inter full-backs

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

Basel hold a narrow one-goal lead over Bayern Munich as they travel to Germany for the second leg of a tie that has the potential to be the shock of the round. Basel were completely dominated in the first leg, yet somehow managed to score a late winner through Valentin Stocker, and Bayern’s 61% possession was in vain.

The pattern of passes into the final third in the first leg tells an interesting story. It can often be tricky to predict how Basel will play down the flanks because the two wide players, Fabian Frei and Xherdan Shaqiri, move between various positions. Often they switch flanks, other times they both move into the centre, and sometimes one winger moves all the way across the pitch to the other side, where they create a two-against-one situation against a full-back.

Bayern should be aware that, while they conceded the only goal of the first leg after a cross from their left-back position, it is actually in the right-back zone where Basel attack more, so Brazilian Rafinha will need a solid defensive performance.

On the subject of crosses, they were also a big feature of the first leg between Marseille and Inter, which also saw a 1-0 home win for the underdog in the first leg. Incredibly, Marseille managed to score with their 44th and final cross of the evening, a corner turned in by Andre Ayew.

There was a simple reason why Marseille were crossing the ball so much – they played with a wide 4-2-3-1 system and Inter played with a narrow 4-3-1-2. That meant that Marseille could get their full-backs forward, create two-versus-one situations, and find space to centre the ball.

But two-versus-one often became three-versus-one, because of the interesting role played by Marseille playmaker Mathieu Valbuena. On paper he was the central attacking midfielder in a, but he rarely spent time in the middle – instead, he drifted to either flank away to shake off his marker, finding space in much wider areas. This helped the Ligue 1 side overload Inter on the flanks.

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