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16 17:04 A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN 36 MINUTES In this picture, you can see that Valencia tries to build out of the back by spreading their players after escaping the Barcelona pressure. The role of the Barcelona center forward is to split the two Valencia center backs, forcing them to play down ballside so the rest of the Barcelona team can shift over. Barcelona’s outside forward then places the Valencia outside back in his defensive shadow (blocking passing options) and sprints toward the player in possession, placing pressure on him.

Barcelona’s defensive strategy can be summarized as aggressive, evidenced by keeping the back four high even after losing the possession of the ball. When they do defend, they will typically use the back four and the three midfield players, keeping the three forwards high. Many teams have come to respect this because the three forwards are just so dangerous on the break. The opposing team may decide to keep more numbers back to defend against these three forwards. However, this system is not without risk in keeping such a high line, especially if the opposing team decides to push more numbers forward in attack.

Under Jupp Heynckes, who played a slightly more direct and transitional game, Neuer was able to showcase his long throw and long ball to start the buildup for Bayern. This has changed somewhat under Pep, who prefers to use him in Bayern’s buildup play out of the back. Bayern Munich also plays a high line with the counter-pressing system that Pep has instilled, so Neuer is ultimately a sweeper-keeper. Jupp Heynckes instilled a great pressing game, especially during his last season with Bayern, but Pep takes an even riskier approach.

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