Champions League Tactical Preview: Dortmund v PSG

This has to be one of the most interesting tactical battles of the round! How will each team counter the others set up and what impact might it have on Football Index?

Tuchel has PSG playing with the lesser-seen formation of 4-2-2-2. It provides a challenge for Dortmund who have more recently played 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 more often than not, but have also played 4-2-3-1 in their last game in the cup.

If you want to read more about Dortmund’s switch to 3-4-3, I covered it in a previous thread here.

PSG’s shape has been pretty consistent over their last few games, with Di Maria & Neymar tucking inside to the CAM role, with two defensive midfielders behind and Icardi and Mbappe.

They create a rectangular shape through the middle of the pitch, to create, but also to try and win the ball back.

If BVB hadn’t played 4-2-3-1 in their last game, I’d be sure they’d stick to the 3-4-3 they’ve been playing since results improved under Lucien Favre. Still, I’m confident that’s what they’ll go with, especially at home in the 1st leg.

The 4-2-3-1 potentially leaves too much space for CAMs to dictate the game and get on the ball in dangerous areas between the lines.

Both teams are used to dictating the ball and the play in their respective domestic leagues:


🔵 PSG 61%

🟡 Dortmund 58%

However, in the Champions League group stages that dropped, as you’d expect, but both sides maintained the majority of the ball:


🔵 PSG 54%

🟡Dortmund 52%

It’s not a huge surprise then, given the narrow 4-2-2-2 of PSG, that their highest average scoring PB players are from the central areas of the pitch.

In contrast, Dortmund have a relative mix of wide players and central players, again aligned with what you’d expect.

So how might the game be won & lost? Is there anything that might help uncover the best PB threats on the night?

The key for me, will be in transition (turn over of possession). As Dortmund win the ball, they will need to move it quickly to wide areas – which Neymar & Di Maria vacate when they tuck inside when in possession.

That should mean the right centre-back, right centre mid and right wing-back all have plenty of touches, while the CAM on the right hand side should also be able to create a 2v1 on the single PSG full back (same applies to left hand side) and impact the attacking side of the game.

View video clip: Dortmund Tactics

From a PSG perspective, if they can draw the CAMs out of position, bypass those and feed into the central areas, causing an overload in the middle, it will leave the Dortmund centre mids potentially outnumbered 4 to 2. Sancho, plus whoever else plays in that CAM role will have to be very disciplined defensively, and not get caught ahead of the PSG defensive midfielder too often.

View video clip: PSG Tactics

What we also know is both teams love a goal. Both are in the Top 5 in Europe’s Top 5 leagues combined for goals per game!

🔵 PSG score 2.6 per game

🟡 Dortmund score 2.8 per game

So, if we’re looking at those who will have a reasonably high involvement in the game, plus those who operate with a bit of a goal threat, what does the xG tell us about the two teams?

🔵 Neymar 1.00

🟡 Sancho 0.53

🔵 Di Maria 0.40

🟡 Hazard 0.32

🟡 Guerrerio 0.24

🟡 Brandt 0.14

It’s much tougher to call than a potential ‘baseline’ duel which we might see between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool which you can read more about here.

If we expect there to be goals in this game, which sounds likely given both teams records, it might be a case of predicting who will score the goals, and if they will have enough involvement overall to take the star man prize. The other possibility is that the number 9s do their thing and with a couple of goals to a strikers name, they could also be in the hunt.

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Written by Nick
A football index user for over 18 months now, I've turned my hand to something I love about football, the tactical battle. Creating a mash of Football Index related info and stats from IndexGain with what's happening tactically, hopefully gives an insight into another way to play the Index.
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