In a tactical face-off between two highly rated managers, Thomas Tuchel came up against his former pupil, Julian Nagelsmann. With goals from Bernat, Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos, PSG cemented their place in the UCL finals for the first time ever. In this article, we take a look at the tactical aspects of this match, which allowed PSG to prevail over RB Leipzig in the UCL semifinals. First of all, we will have a look at the starting lineups for both teams.
PSG on the ball and RB Leipzig off the ball
PSG went with their preferred 4-3-3 setup against RB Leipzig. Neymar started in a central role, almost as a false 9, with Mbappe and Di Maria operating as wing forwards.
However, on the ball, they changed their system to a back 3 as shown below.
Paredes dropped in the left space as a third center back to facilitate the build-up. As Leipzig did not press high enough, Paredes had the time and space in front of him to pick out Neymar in between the lines. Mbappe played high and narrow on the left, to link up with Neymar.
Furthermore, to avoid Neymar being isolated between the lines, Herrera pushed up on the right attacking half space to link up with Di Maria, who was playing high and narrow on the right (like Mbappe on the left). This compressed Leipzig’s defence pretty narrow, allowing both the PSG fullbacks, especially Bernat to exploit the wide spaces.
In response, Leipzig usually defended in a 4-1-4-1 medium to low block, which was fluid enough to change into a back 5 at times. Whilst they aimed to be compact, they left too much space in between the lines for Neymar to exploit. Coupled with Leipzig’s unassertive pressing, PSG were comfortable in attacking through the middle or the wings. This allowed PSG to be dominant in most areas of the pitch.
At times Sabitzer did try to step out and press the center backs high. But overall Leipzig were pretty pliant in their press. This allowed the PSG players to keep attacking them freely, and exploit their rather fragile defence. As a result, PSG were able to register more shots on target, compared to their opposition.
RB Leipzig on the ball and PSG off the ball
RB Leipzig looked to build up in a back 3. Consequently, PSG went man to man in their pressing, using a 4-3-3. Neymar, who played centrally in this match looked to press the goalkeeper whilst covershadowing Upamecano.
To counter this, Leipzig looked to push Upamecano into the midfield at times (like a sweeper) and form a double pivot alongside Kampl, allowing Sabitzer to push up higher. Consequently, this created a few problems for Paredes early on in the match as he faced a 2v1 situation then. As PSG’s fullbacks were hesitant to leave open space on the wings, Leipzig looked to counter the press using the fullbacks as an outlet.
Moreover, in the central regions, Kampl was one of Leipzig’s main outlets. Alongside Upamecano, he was often often Leipzig’s progressor through the middle.
However, as the match progressed, Leipzig found it difficult to build up from the back as one of the interiors in PSG’s midfield always looked to press the fullback, with others backing up the press. This eventually led to one of the goals for PSG. For example, look at the image given below. When the ball is played out to Angelino, Herrera tries to close him down with Paredes backing up the press.
In the first half, Leipzig were indeed successful in getting in behind the PSG defence, at times. This was a consequence of Bernat’s high position, coupled with Laimer and Sabitzer’s threat on the right.
On the left, it was the combination of Nkunku and Angelino which was a threat for Leipzig on the counters. Nkunku often drew the right back narrow, allowing Angelino to occupy the open space on the left.
Since PSG’s front three did not track back pretty often, Leipzig were able to create chances through the wings. However, the number of chances they received were lesser than required.
Additionally, they did miss their star man, Timo Werner in this match. His pace and clinical finishing on the counter attack could have been decisive for them in this fixture.
RB Leipzig’s passive approach in this match indeed cost them a place in the UCL final. Moreover, they did miss their talisman, whose technical and physical attributes could have changed the outcome of the match in their favour. As a result, their only highlight of this encounter was probably Nagelsmann’s bizarre suit.
On the other hand, PSG were deserving winners of this UCL fixture. They created more chances and had more shots on target compared to Leipzig. Consequently, they had a much better xG score of 3.10, compared to Leipzig’s score of 1.10 .
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