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Blog - Tactics and Analysis

Stats suggest Bale is Madrid's fall guy

Tactics & Analysis

WhoScored: Henderson vs. Carrick

Liverpool vs. Man Utd

Where have Real Madrid gone wrong?

Can, Skrtel, Sakho combo key for Reds


Man City are dependent on Yaya Toure

Tactics & Analysis
 By Michael Cox

Can Verratti, De Gea and Kane break into their national teams' starting XIs?

The ESPN FC crew debate whether or not Harry Kane should start up front for England against Lithuania.
England head coach Roy Hodgson, and striker Wayne Rooney are confident about Harry Kane's debut in the European qualifier against Lithuania.

The European Championship's expansion to a 24-team tournament has a multitude of effects -- one is that it effectively gives the major countries a free pass. Therefore, managers have more license to experiment and evolve their side with significantly less risk of failure.

Here are five fine talents still attempting to break into their country's first-choice XI -- what chance do they have of overhauling more established names?

1. Marco Verratti, Italy

By this stage, we expected Verratti to be Italy's...

Gareth Bale is Real Madrid's fall guy despite replicating his 2013-14 form

ESPN FC's Spain correspondent Sid Lowe lays out the reasons why Gareth Bale has been made a target for criticism among Madrid supporters this season.

When two of a country's leading newspapers -- and renowned supporters of Real Madrid -- rail against a player of their beloved club, it won't be long before the fans are baying for blood. Despite netting a match-winning brace the game previous, the daggers were out for Gareth Bale once again after the Clasico. AS awarded only referee Mateu Lahoz a lower rating on the day than the Welshman and Marca refused outright to even give the 25-year-old a score.

It's true that Bale had a disappointing night...

 By Michael Cox

How Liverpool, Man Utd have found defensive balance ahead of key clash

A big, big, big, big game in the Premier League as Liverpool and Manchester United square off with a spot in the top four on the line. The boys chat with Louis van Gaal, Jamie Carragher, Kenny Dalglish and others ahead of this momentous clash.

Sometimes, managers must ignore the final scoreline when assessing the tactical performance of their side -- Manchester United's 3-0 victory over Liverpool earlier in the season was a prime example.

United deserved the victory, but Liverpool's performance with a new-look back three was highly encouraging. OK, there were some terrible individual errors, but that was preferable to the way Manchester United's system looked entirely disorganised.

The scoreline was decided, of course, by what happened...

Jordan Henderson and Michael Carrick hold key in Liverpool vs. Man United

Jordan Henderson and Michael Carrick have starred for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively this season and face each other on Sunday.

At the beginning of the season both Liverpool and Manchester United were undergoing periods of transition, though of vastly differing sorts.

Brendan Rodgers' side faced the challenge of replacing the pace, verve and goals of the departed Luis Suarez, while United had a new incoming manager and philosophy to implement. It took both teams a while to adapt to the circumstances, but they have come out the other side stronger for it.

They face off at Anfield on Sunday as two of the Premier League's most...

 By Michael Cox

With Manchester City's squad in need of overhaul, who stays and who goes?

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno and Craig Burley examine Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini's troublesome situation ahead of the Champions League match against FC Barcelona.
ESPN FC's Janusz Michallik and Stu Holden take a look at the tactics behind Manchester City's upcoming clash with Barcelona.

Throughout their transformation from Premier League mid-table also-rans into regular title challengers, Manchester City have been a pure buying club.

This is hardly a revelation: Sheikh Mansour's millions have unquestionably been the major reason they have become one of England's leading sides.

Yet the nature of their transfer activity has nevertheless been unusual. In that they've never sold a single key player, with the likes of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli sold at times when they were not...

Luis Suarez integration could well drive Barca to Liga, Champions League glory

FC Barcelona is one point ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga heading into the Clasico of clasicos.
Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique says his side's clinical finishing was the key to Saturday's 2-0 win at Eibar.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno and Craig Burley examine Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini's troublesome situation ahead of the Champions League match against FC Barcelona.

Three weeks ago, Barcelona beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad in their first leg of the Champions League round of 16. It was a good result by every account, but the scoreline result undersells Barca's dominant performance. The Blaugrana created four big chances in open play and drew a penalty, but they scored only once from these five shots. On the balance of chances, Barcelona easily could have won 3-1 or 4-1. As a result, they should be confident heading into the return leg at the Camp Nou.