Preview: What can Fiorentina Women do to stop Man City’s attacks in UWCL
Fiorentina Women travelled to England in order to face Manchester City Women in the first leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League’s round of 16 on Wednesday. And the Citizens are also looking forward to playing this match especially following their big 0-4 win against Birmingham City which enabled them to prepare for this UEFA Champions League’s match in the best of ways.
In this tactical analysis article, I will delve deeper into Manchester City’s tactics, how they can make a good result in this first leg, while also focusing on Fiorentina’s main strengths and how they can avoid the defeat and keep their chances alive for the second leg.
The analysis will begin by shedding some light on both teams’ probable formations and line-ups, before moving to analysing each team’s tactical plans separately.
Line-ups and formations
Manchester City will most probably line-up according to the usual 4-3-3 formation which Gareth Taylor usually prefers. In order to beat Fiorentina and try to win in this round, Manchester City will need to score as many goals as possible in this first leg while making sure that they don’t concede away goals to not complicate their mission at Florence.
And in this regard, it is most probable to see Manchester City playing according to their best possible line-up; Ellie Roebuck as a goalkeeper, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Abby Dahlkemper, and Alex Greenwood in defence, a midfield composed of Keira Walsh, Sam Mewis and Caroline Weir, while in attack the team would play with Chloe Kelly on the right-wing, Lauren Hemp on the left-wing and Ellen White as a striker.
On the other side, Fiorentina, coached by Antonio Cicotta, do change a lot in their formations according to the available players and to their opponents. We saw them using the 4-4-2 at times, the 4-3-3 at other times, and even the 4-1-3-2 and the 4-3-1-2 as well.
However, the most probable line-up to be chosen for this match would be the 4-3-3 because this formation suited the team in the last few matches and it helped the players perform in the best way. And therefore, it would be better if they continue playing according to this formation since this will give the team tactical fluidity and each player will be already aware of how she should move in possession and out of possession.
Fiorentina will most probably play according to this line-up: Katja Schroffenegger as a goalkeeper, Frederikke Thøgersen, Alice Tortelli, Louise Quinn and Martina Zanoli in defence, Stephanie Breitner, Tessel Middag and Greta Adami in midfield while Sara Baldi on the left-wing, Lana Clelland on the right-wing and Daniela Sabatino as a striker.
What should Manchester City do tactically?
In order to get the best result out of this match, Manchester City will need to play attacking football in this match, with much high pressing, and trying to intercept the ball in their opponent’s own half.
And by adopting this approach, Manchester City would have more attacking opportunities without being in danger. However, if Fiorentina players were able to overcome Manchester City’s high pressing with accurate passing or penetrations from the wings, Manchester City players will need to retreat quickly and not allow spaces for their opponent.
If they don’t retreat quickly, Manchester City will be risking a lot and they could end up conceding goals. And that’s exactly what happened when they faced Arsenal lately.
Like you can see in this example, Arsenal were able to make a counter-attack and left Manchester City players upfront since they escaped their pressing, and the result was a 4 against 2 situation with other 5 Manchester City players trying to catch Arsenal’s players who were already distant from them. And in the end, this was a goal for the Gunners.
Manchester City shoot 17.78 times per match with 36.7 % on target, a good average which could be enhanced in the near future. Yet, the team should be more decisive in front of goal and improve the finishing of actions in order to score as many goals as possible especially in these kinds of matches.
With many impressive options upfront like Hemp, Kelly and White, these players should focus even more on finishing the action since they can’t worry about playmaking.
In other words, this team has got plenty of good passers and midfielders with vision such as Weir, Mewis, Walsh, Lavelle, and therefore, it is unlikely that these players won’t be able to advance with the ball and give passes to the attackers.
Manchester City players and mainly midfielders make 70.26 passes to the final third with 69.1 accurate ones. And this means that Manchester City attacking players are lucky enough to receive accurate through passes in dangerous positions and should therefore focus even more in finishing those actions.
Moreover, these attacking players and with the help of midfielders, should make even more pressing in this game since that will enable them to confuse Fiorentina’s players and build-up.
Just like they were doing in the FAWSL, Manchester City would benefit a lot from this continuous pressing and why not score goals out of that. You can see below for example how this pressing was fruitful and allowed White to be in a one-on-one situation with Arsenal’s goalkeeper thanks to Walsh and Stanway’s pressing.
Manchester City’s xG is 2.96, and if they will be able to score two or three goals, their mission will definitely be easier in Florence since they will have a considerable advantage. Yet, Manchester City’s defenders will need to study Sabatino’s movements and know how to deal with her, since this experienced player is a goal machine and she can exploit any mistake in the penalty box.
Not only that, Manchester City will also need to be attentive in set-pieces since at times they concede goals from these free-kicks mainly. And Fiorentina will certainly look to exploit this point to their advantage since it will be more difficult for them to score from open play.
Like you can see in the example above, Manchester City defenders were not able to mark Chelsea’s player effectively during this free-kick, and Greenwood gave away the ball to her by mistake and then did not prevent her from shooting. And this resulted in a goal. Therefore, Manchester City should be more attentive during such actions if they want to go to Florence with a clean sheet.
What can Fiorentina do to keep their chances alive?
Fiorentina will certainly try their best to get back to Italy with a positive result, however, even a 1-0, 0-0, or 1-1 can all be considered as positive results.
And in order to succeed in getting a similar result, Fiorentina should mainly be solid at the back and mark Manchester City’s attackers tightly since they have some very talented players like Kelly and Hemp who are fast, dribblers and physically strong as well.
Moreover, the two centre-backs should focus on marking White tightly as well since she is strong and effective in aerial duels, in set-pieces and also in open play.
And therefore, Fiorentina should not allow mistakes like the following to happen. In the UWCL match against Slavia Prague, Fiorentina conceded goals that could have been avoided, such as this one. The bad marking from Zanoli in this action following the winger’s cross resulted in a goal to Slavia Prague.
Zanoli was just looking at the ball and forgot to get closer to her direct marker who was already waiting for the ball and measured its trajectory better than Zanoli did. And these kinds of mistakes can cost Fiorentina a lot against tougher teams like Manchester City.
Moreover, and just like what we said about Manchester City, Fiorentina do also make many errors in defending set-pieces, and against tall players like Houghton, White, Mewis, Kelly, and others, mistakes in marking during set-pieces can instantly lead to conceding goals.
And therefore, Fiorentina should focus a lot on this aspect. As you can see below, Fiorentina conceded a goal here due to bad marking during a set-piece for Slavia Prague. Leaving the opponent alone in these kinds of situations can instantly cost you a goal.
Fiorentina concede 1.54 goals on average and this just shows how Fiorentina’s defensive abilities are not excellent. And to improve this, Fiorentina should make two lines of defence and oblige their midfielders to help defenders when out of possession in order to not allow a lot of space to their opponents especially in the final third.
When it comes to attack, Fiorentina should know how to exploit the chances that they will get in this match since they won’t probably get many chances. And therefore, it would be fundamental to try to score some of these chances even though Fiorentina do not have an excellent xG, with 1.31 per game.
Yet, the team has got some talented players along with an experienced player like Sabatino who can exploit chances/mistakes and create ones out of nothing with the help of her teammates.
You can see below how Sabatino was able to exploit a bad marking from Prague’s defender to score a very late goal from a free-kick at the last seconds of the game.
Also, Fiorentina has got some good and quick dribblers especially on the wings like Tatiana Bonetti, Lana Clelland and Sara Baldi who can create danger at any time and go for the solo finish or pass to Sabatino like Bonetti did in the following example after she dribbled past her marker.
These types of chances can create a lot of danger to Manchester City’s defence if they don’t mark Fiorentina’s players tightly and not allow them to reach the box. Otherwise, we could see goals or penalties for Fiorentina especially when considering Sabatino’s quick and unpredicted moves in the box which can help Fiorentina a lot in this match.
Manchester City will be facing a good Italian team at the Academy Stadium. However, Manchester City are favoured to win in this first leg if they play with concentration and with the same determination of their recent matches.
And for the Italians, they should believe in their chances and try to get the best possible result in order to keep the game open for the second leg in Italy to try and win it. Yet, it will not be easy for the Italians.