Chelsea face Ajax tonight at 17:55 (UK), and the game may be won or lost with how the teams decide to set up.
Although the departures of Matthijs De Ligt and Frenkie De Jong meant that Ajax had lost two key players, a lot of their tactics are similar to last year, with only one or two minor changes.
This season, they have mainly played 4-3-3 in the Eredevise, however in both their Champions League games against Valencia and Lille they have started with a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Similarly to us, they are very flexible in their starting shape, and like to frequently change it throughout the 90 minutes.
Their main change in formation is that they prefer to attack with the 4-3-3, and when their opposition has the ball, they like to defend in a 4-2-3-1.
This will give Ajax more of a threat when they are trying to push up the pitch quickly. Defending with the two deeper roles in midfield allows them to trigger their press in waves, as well as giving more protection to the back.
This is where Frank Lampard arguably has a huge dilemma. He could either choose to play four at the back and try and match Ajax, or he could play three at the back and possibly throw the Dutch team off guard.
Playing four in defense would allow the attack to flow much quicker and for the wide areas to be used more, whereas the 3-4-3 formation would provide us more stability, and this formation has been preferred so far in our Champions League campaign.
In my opinion, the management team will decide to play a certain formation dependant on who they are planning to play in the starting eleven. If Marcos Alonso is starting, we can certainly expect the 3-4-3, whereas if Emerson Palmieri will start it is likely that the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation will be employed.
There is a very good chance that any time you have watched Ajax in the last year, there have been a lot of goals. In fact, in their last ten games they have scored 2.8 goals per game on average.
This is due to their precise movement when off the ball and how they utilise the wings exceptionally well.
When they are on the attack, they try and switch into the 4-3-3 formation. This allows a minimum of four attackers to attack all at once, and the attack of Quincy Promes, Dusan Tadic, Van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech cannot get much slower.
They tend to keep two of those four attackers close together in the central part of the pitch, and this forces the opposition centre-backs to concentrate on the two central forwards.
This allows the wingers to stay out wide and at times are left with a simple 1v1 situation, and as there would be two of their forwards centrally in the box, it allows the ball to crossed in very easily.
Also, when the wide attackers have the ball they like to drop deeper. This creates a lot of space in front of them, for the fullbacks to run ahead, and if Azpilicueta and Alonso are starting as fullbacks we could be in trouble.
This is why, there is a good chance we will see three at the back, with there being more cover for the fullbacks if we are countered.
Chelsea aren’t too bad scoring wise too. Chelsea also have scored an average of 2.8 goals per game in the last 10, in a tougher league against tougher opponents.
With no disrespect to the Dutch teams, the English teams are much harder to face and this is where we can certainly surprise Ajax.
They have not faced a team of our caliber until now, whereas we have played the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool twice so we have had experience this year of playing against big clubs.
Although both teams have scored a lot of goals recently, it does not mean that this game will be a high-scoring one.
Chelsea have been very shaky at the back this season, but have shown improvements closer towards this game due to the better pressing from the midfield and attack, leaving the defense to do very little work.
Ajax have already shown this season that they are very comfortable in playing against the press, especially in their game against Sparta.
Sparta pressed in a 4-4-1-1 formation, very similar to what we try and do with Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount. Although a lot of Chelsea fans want to see Christian Pulisic play today and give Mount a rest, Mount could be starting due to his pressing ability.
To counter the opposition press, they like their centre forward to drop deep, creating space in behind our defense. This is exactly what Chelsea try and do as well, with Abraham dropping deep to hold the ball while Hudson-Odoi and Willian run behind the young striker.
So, Chelsea will have to make sure that when they are pressing they start it all the way from the front, and that every single move has to be executed correctly or it will leave a lot of space for Ajax to run into.
Also, when Chelsea are being pressed, there needs to be a lot of movement and the ball has to go from the defense to the attack very quickly, hence Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho are almost guaranteed to start.
However, despite all of this, we all know how flexible Jody Morris and Frank Lampard are tactics wise and it would not shock me if they decided to switch things up completely.
The game certainly is not going to be one sided, and if Chelsea can take home three points it will definitely make life a lot easier in the Champions League.
Written by Paree