UEFA Champions League 2019/20 – Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

Dinamo Zagreb drew 3-3 with Shakhtar Donetsk in a thrilling clash for the UEFA Champions League. The match, which was played in Croatia, saw four goals in the last 15 minutes including two late Shakhtar goals which saw the Ukrainians rescue a point.

In this tactical analysis, we will summarize the original setup of each team, and what they did, in the end, to quickly turn a stalemate into an entertaining affair.


UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

Dinamo used their usual 3-4-2-1 that they’ve had in every game barring their clash against Manchester City. The lineup is almost identical to the one they used in their last Champions League game, also against Shakhtar Donetsk. The only difference is Bruno Petkovic comes in for Gavranovic. The two star players in Orsic and the highly touted Dani Olmo are still there as is the former Cardiff Theophile-Catherine.

Shakhtar also had a relatively similar lineup but a different formation and some changes. No Konoplyanka this time, as Taison goes over to the left. Dodo goes in for Bolbat and Kovalenko in the middle, who is the replacement for Konoplyanka (or Taison in his original position).

In this analysis, we will look at Dinamo’s defensive setup, Shakhtar Donetsk and their attacking setup, and how the game changed after the red card.

Dinamo’s Defensive Setup

Dinamo Zagreb’s defensive setup was very simple. They play man to man marking.

Each Shakhtar player that posed some kind of danger would have a man being taken on by a Dinamo defender. This was done in order to keep a defensive shape and not constantly open up every time a new player gets the ball. This was a smart way for Zagreb to be able to hold Shakhtar at bay for the most part due to how compact they were able to be thanks to only having one player take on the most dangerous opponents.

In a backline of three, this wasn’t made too easy. The young Nikola Moro played as a ball-winner in the midfield and didn’t venture too far forward. Stojanovic and Leovac also helped in defence to keep the flanks strong defensively and not an open space to exploit the lack of fullbacks.

As for the centre backs, they stayed in a line of three as they had been marking one or two players depending on the Shakhtar setup. They wouldn’t allow each other to make a foot wrong to keep the opposing forward offside or with little space to work. The midfield needed to provide support in defence so the Ukrainian side wouldn’t run at a backline of three with little space to close down.

Here is an example of their tactics.

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

Taison who is in possession drives forward and runs at the Zagreb defence. Once he does, Stojanovic takes his man and makes the run back in order to avoid open space. This is because Theophile Catherine needs to go take his player, thus open space out wide for Taison to use his pace and exploit a weakness. Stojanovic would be Taison’s man and he needs to anticipate the run.

Meanwhile, Leovac pushes back in order to avoid an attack on his side should Taison switch the ball to the other side of the pitch.

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

Taison opts for a short pass to his teammate, who is being marked by Theophile-Catherine. As a result, Stojanovic follows Taison and becomes the cover for the central defender who went to fulfil his tactical role.

Meanwhile, you can also see that every somewhat dangerous player is being taken on by somebody.

Shakhtar’s offensive setup

Shakhtar had more possession, a higher xG and more shots in the game. However, for most of the game, it was a stalemate. Despite Shakhtar’s xG of 3.05, the Ukrainian side had trouble cracking Dinamo’s defence and their strong man to man system.

Junior Moraes, who was the striker, would always wait out wide when he is out of possession. He was there to offer some width, while Kovalenko went up in his spot to find space as a pseudo-forward. Marlos would sit deeper rather than attack up the wing. This is partly what made the first half of the game dull, both teams had their wingers dropping deep and helping in defence. As a result, there were plenty of interceptions and defensive challenges.

Usually when attacking, Shakhtar had Junior Moraes searching for the ball out wide, Kovalenko seeking for space, Marlos joining the attack late and Stepanenko even stepped into the box a couple of times to help offensively. You also had Dodo and Ismaily, the two full-backs sometimes pushing up but allowed their more advanced partners to be the main attackers and they sat there in order to keep the dominance and allow an option at the back to avoid counters.

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

As you can see in the image above, Junior Moraes is out wide instead of in the middle while he’s not in possession, but his teammate is. Kovalenko makes a run up forward to find space in the box once he reaches the area.

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

Junior Moraes makes the run up the wing while Alan Patrick can make the ball either to Kovalenko or out wide to his countrymen. In this case, he opts for the through ball. While all this goes on, Kovalenko continues his off the ball movement into the box.

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

As Moraes holds the ball out right thinking about the best possible decision to make, Alan Patrick makes his way forward and is at a better angle than his marker. Kovalenko also makes his way in to add an extra body in the box.

This action resulted in Shakhtar’s first goal of the game.

Changes after the red card

In the 74th minute, Nikola Moro got sent off for Dinamo Zagreb and left the home side with 10 men, but five minutes later, Marlos also saw red and evened out the game. During the minutes that Zagreb was with 10, Shakhtar took complete control of the game. They asserted their dominance and Dinamo were looking to just see out the draw, however this only last a few minutes. As soon as Marlos saw his red, the Croatian side went out to attack again.

Dinamo Zagreb was still going for their man to man-marking scheme. However, Junior Moraes began to sit more narrowly and played up front with Kovalenko. Now with this red, Shakhtar were playing a 3-4-2, meanwhile Dinamo switched to a 4-4-1. The latter did this in the 77th minute and wanted a bit more control in the midfield.

The Croatians had been pushing for a winner as soon as Marlos got sent off for Shakhtar. Knowing the odds were even, they had Bruno Petkovic as the target man as he has been the entire game head down the ball or hold it up for other players to join in the play. He used his strength to hold off other defenders. During this time, Shakhtar wasn’t doing a whole lot and the tables had turned.

Dinamo Zagreb’s midfielders were pushing high up and beginning to underlap which allowed them to attack more fluidly as opposed to the rather conservative attacking plan they had earlier.

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

Theophile-Catherine makes the pass forward to Bruno Petkovic, who had been the target man in place of Gavranovic if you recall the lineups. After having won 50% of his aerial duels (3/6), his teammate knew to give him the benefit of the doubt. In this case, Bruno stopped the ball with his feet rather than chest it down.

UEFA Champions League 2019/20 - Dinamo Zagreb vs Shakhtar Tactical Analysis tactics

As Petkovic holds off his marker, Ivanusec and Ademi go to offer an extra man in the box, but they do it both in the middle. They are underlapping. The Shakhtar defence does a poor job in trying to keep them out. They put more emphasis on keeping their defensive shape.


A late penalty decision saw Shakhtar rescue a point, which is unfortunate for the home side but in the end a draw is fair for both sides, as each team had spells of dominance in separate points. It was an even game and a lapse in concentration between the 80th and 90th minute saw Shakhtar in a sticky situation, however they were able to reorganize themselves in attack and find a draw in the end.

Both of these teams sit on five points in a group containing Manchester City and Atalanta. Both are fighting for 2nd place and now these last two matchdays will be huge for both teams.


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