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14 December 2020 14:33

Marcel Halstenberg is in possession in the half-space, having dribbled forward in an attempt to attract defensive pressure.

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Europa League draw details

With Barcelona stumbling both domestically and in Europe, Atletico were arguably seen as the toughest of the second-placed sides due to the defensive and combative style Simeone has imprinted in his players over the last nine years as manager. "I think Chelsea have certainly got the firepower up front to open up Atletico, but it depends also as you're going into these big games I always feel if you're hitting confidence, momentum and results – but we won't know that – if you're hitting them when playing well, winning back-to-back games in the league. After securing their spot in the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, RB Leipzig took on Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on Saturday. While Werder has put in a much better performance this season compared to last year's, they still were no match for Leipzig, who saw most of the possession and were able to grind out a 2-0 victory. The analysis will look at Leipzig's use of the back three in Werder's half, Werder's struggle to progress up the pitch, and a quick analysis of what makes Leipzig so good in transition.

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Dayot Upamecano and Willi Orbán started as centre-backs with Nordi Mukiele and Marcel Halstenberg on the right and left flank defensively. Kevin Kampl and Marcel Sabitzer started as defensive midfielders, with Dani Olmo in front of them in the centre of the park. Amadou Haidara started on the right flank as Justin Kluivert started on the left; both players looked to support Yussuf Poulsen, who started the match as Leipzig's striker. This allowed them to access passes from the half-space, which meant that they had more passing options and angles going forward due to their location on the pitch. Below is an image highlighting why having the ball in the half-space can be so rewarding when playing from the back.

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Marcel Halstenberg is in possession in the half-space, having dribbled forward in an attempt to attract defensive pressure. Halstenberg has three immediate options that allow him to play a pass forward. As Leipzig seems to train, if he plays the most vertical pass, that will almost certainly be supported by runs from lower on the pitch, meaning that if Sabitzer received the ball, he has options to play the way he is facing. Halstenberg also had the option of passing the ball back to Upamecano or Orbán who can change the point of attack. These passing options from the central part of the pitch (relative to the wing) allow Leipzig to possess the ball with more legitimate threats toward goal.

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Nagelsmann appeared to trust his centre-backs to get high up the pitch as well, allowing them to develop numerical advantages by overloading spaces as they supported the attack. Below is the image before Leipzig drew a penalty, which Marcel Sabitzer ultimately finished off to take the lead. The first thing to notice is where the pass comes from: the left half-space. Werder allowed this pass to be made because they were attempting to prevent those diagonal balls previously mentioned. This pass came after a longer spell of Leipzig possession, and so the Werder defence was struggling to stay organised as the ball moved quickly.

Leipzig had three men near the space who could challenge for second balls. This much space allows for more access to second balls, allowing Leipzig to use their constant movement to get a shot on target. This allowed space to open up for a pass, which Orbán played. Now, Haidara was free in the half-space with a good amount of time to pick out a pass. While Werder did look to get forward, they did so by engaging Leipzig's 4-2-3-1 pressing structure, which at times looked more like a 4-2-2-2 or asymmetrical 3-3-2-2. Toprak would step forward almost as a defensive midfielder, allowing Marco Friedl and Christian Groß to play as a pairing. The problem was Leipzig left these players open in order to bait passes into them. When these aerial passes came in, Leipzig would send their outside backs to press as the ball was in the air. If Leipzig didn't win the initial pass, they certainly held an advantage for winning the second ball. In the image above, Pavlenka played a ball to Gebre Selassie, who appeared to be open in space. Later in the match, Werder attempted to improvise in order to avoid playing into Leipzig's trap. Luckily for Werder, they were able to deny a lot of the chances that Leipzig created through their pressing. This allowed Werder to get more time on the ball. This allowed him to turn up pitch, but he still had to quickly pass the ball to Kevin Möhwald, who was running up the pitch. When Toprak looked back, Poulsen took two steps forward, eliminating Toprak's other passing option. Haidara recognised the favourable position, and as Olmo won the ball in the direction of Poulsen, he ran into the space behind, allowing Poulsen to slip a pass in. RB Leipzig joined Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga after cruising to a 2-0 victory over Werder Bremen on Saturday to stay second only on goal difference. Buoyed up by their 3-2 midweek win over Manchester United that earned them a place in the Champions League last 16, the hosts dominated Werder from the start. © Provided by Daily Mail Dani Olmo (right) finished off a slick Leipzig passing move to secure the club's 2-0 victory Leipzig, who have now won all six of their home games this season, earned a penalty in the 26th minute and Marcel Sabitzer converted it.