The UEFA Youth League may not be one of the most popular European tournaments but it is a superb opportunity to watch the next generation of stars in action and to analyse what makes sucy young teams click together. This match proved to be no different and here, we’ll analyse the tactical side of this matchup.
Two time UEFA Youth League winners Barcelona, currently standing second in their league come off the back of a 4-0 victory against Mallorca U19. They lost to Spurs in the Youth League but still progressed as leaders of their group.
Tenas; Jaime Comas Mingueza Medina; Moriba Sanz Orellana; De La Fuente, Marqués, Fati
Hertha Berlin stand seventh in their league as of now and have not lost in the UEFA Youth League this year beating PSG 2-1 in their previous match.
Hertha Berlin (4-4-2)
Klatte; Gurschke, Rekik, Baak, Kastrati; Zografakis, Albrecht, Krebs, Netz; Ngankam, Jastrzembski
Pace and skill
Since the match began, a few trends were apparent. Whenever the ball went to Barcelona‘s goalkeeper, Hertha looked to press on him through the middle with Ngankam and Jastrzembski. By getting Barcelona to play wide, Hertha expected Orellana and Moriba to move wide and try to become passing options. This would allow Hertha to unleash both forwards and the two midfielders on either side of the midfield four. This would help them transition to a 4-2-4. But this plan backfired incredibly as we shall see.
When Barcelona were pushed wide, Denis Silva’s side looked to mostly exercise two solutions. The first and predominant one was to get Fati and De La Fuente to drop back when the full-backs Mika Medina or captain Guillem Jaime had the ball. The full-backs would then launch the ball over the wings and Barcelona’s wingers would use their pace causing Kastrati and Gurschke to be terrorised for the whole match. This gave Barcelona a great opportunity in the minute when De La Fuente crossed the ball but Fati missed a very easy chance. Throughout the match, the full-backs of Hertha were unable to contain Barcelona which led to Kastrati being booked later on. When this problem arised, Rekik moved out to help Gurschke. All this had already caused discipline to be lost in the German side. Baak and Rekik were the only players keeping Hertha still in the game, Netz and Zografakis had to move back to help the full-backs, Albrecht was unable to influence the midfield and Krebs was caught in the chaos caused by Moriba which we shall observe.
Systems in place
Raw talent are the two words which sum up Moriba’s performance throughout the match. Playing in an advanced position on the right of central mid, Moriba was the focal point of many attacks. De La Fuente was pulling Kastrati out of position by dropping back. This made space for Moriba and he advanced often. Similarly, Fati did the same for Orellana on the left. Orellana was the player pressing up more, almost level with Marqués as Moriba was needed in midfield with his physical presence. Now, as Moriba continued to move forward, this made the midfielder of Hertha, Krebs, move in on him to keep Barcelona from getting numerical superiority.
So around Moriba, the Hertha players were very unaware of who moves in when. This led to the goal by Moriba. Moriba got possession on the break and his presence allowed De La Fuente to be free on the right wing. After receiving a pass, the American winger went on a mazy run and his shot was cleared off the line by a defender with a header. This rebound was slotted in by Moriba very well. On the other side, all this while Orellana was completely dominating midfield and Fati was terrorizing the defense. When Barcelona had possession, Orellana would be close to Fati ready to dictate the tempo.
Orellana would tuck in to allow the debutant left-back Medina to move up the field. Now at this point, Barcelona had both the full-backs moving up and down the field, both wingers in their natural postions and the two central midfielders, Moriba and Orellana almost playing as attacking midfielders. Hertha refused to have one of the two forwards drop back which gave the Catalans a constant advantage. The defensive midfielder for Barcelona, Alvaro Sanz was doing very well to stop any counter attacks along with the full-backs. The two central defenders were hardly needed in the first half. Barcelona were showing supremacy throughout.
After the first half Barcelona had eight attempts on goal to Hertha’s one. A change of tactics was desperately needed. In terms of quality, Barcelona’s players were clearly at a different level and Denis Silva’s tactics were on point. Hertha’s coach Hartmann however, looked to make some changes to the flow of the game which was clearly against them.
In the second half, one of the two forwards finally dropped back to make it five in midfield. Now the forward that dropped back, Ngankam, played in the right of midfield and the remaining midfield was quite similar. Hertha’s full-backs looked to move up to almost get three players pressurising Moriba and De La Fuente and three pressurising Orellana and Fati. Either Albrecht or Krebs would look to dispossess or take Sanz out of the game by restricting flow towards him. Rekik and Baak would be rigid in positioning while defending which was very necessary because they were clearly Hertha’s best players in the first half. To retaliate this, Marqués would drop back into midfield and this would cause the three-on-two superiority on Hertha on either side to be lost as a player would have to come out of position as Sanz had to be contained so either Netz or Zografakis would try to pressurise Marqués but the Venezuelan striker was superb with his back towards the goal, too. He played passes to the side which didn’t have numerical superiority which was majorly the right wing of Hertha where Ngankam was doing a terrible job defensively. This recovery of possession in midfield and the quick passing down Barcelona’s left wing led to the next two goals, almost exactly the same as Hertha failed to mark Marqués in the box and Medina played two superb crosses which were converted easily.
Hertha had a few chances because of the excellent work rate of Jastrzembski but they failed to create anything out of them. Hartmann just did not get his tactics right throughout and Hertha failed to have any domination enough to make an impact.
Barcelona got a deserved victory and they will go on to face Lyon in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League in an attempt to win their third title.