Battle of the Leagues, Matchday 3: Premier League, LaLiga in danger of going out


We’ve reached the nail-biting conclusion of the group stage in ESPN’s Battle of the Leagues, presented by EA Sports FIFA 22, and every single one of Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Eredivisie, Major League Soccer and Liga MX still has a shot of reaching next week’s semifinals.

There is a heavyweight clash in Group A with Bundesliga vs. Ligue 1, with Major League Soccer taking on LaLiga to settle who progresses; in Group B, Serie A vs. Eredivisie and Premier League vs. Liga MX will finalise the other half of the draw in our tournament, simulated on EA Sports’ FIFA 22.

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In Group A, Julien Laurens’ Ligue 1 team have been befitting of their status as defending champions, winning their first two matches to guarantee progress into the semifinals with a game to spare.

For Gab Marcotti’s Bundesliga side to join them, they may need to do what they couldn’t in last year’s final: beat Ligue 1 in order to qualify. If that doesn’t happen, the door is open for either Nedum Onuoha’s Major League Soccer all-stars or Rodrigo Faez’s LaLiga selection to grab second spot if either of them can win their match-up.

Group B is on a real knife-edge. The Eredivisie squad, managed by Fresia Cousino Arias, has been the surprise package of the tournament, winning their first two matches — including a shock win over Mark Ogden’s Premier League All-Stars on Matchday 2 despite playing most of the game with 10 men.

However, the Eredivisie could still fail to reach the semifinals if they lose their last group match against Kay Murray’s Serie A team and the Premier League wins against Herc Gomez’s Liga MX side.

Even Liga MX could still make the final four despite being the only Group B team yet to win — they need to defeat the Premier League by at least two goals and hope that the Eredivisie beats Serie A.

You can catch up on the tournament rules and format here, then check out below to see the team selections, tactics and prematch chat before watching highlights of the matches and managers’ real-time reactions.

Jump to: Bundesliga vs. Ligue 1 | MLS vs. LaLiga | Serie A vs. Eredivisie | Premier League vs. Liga MX | Results, match stats & standings




Gab Marcotti (Bundesliga)

“OK, so we were held by to a 1-1 draw by LaLiga because they got a nonsense penalty — for the second straight game, I might add! Our finishing let us down, but I have no choice: I must continue to put my trust in Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland. I might be a bit more aggressive this time around and push wingers Moussa Diaby and Filip Kostic further forward to offer support. Maybe that will also stop Haaland from dropping into midfield all the time, which I found very frustrating against LaLiga.

“At the back, I’m giving Stefan Lainer the start over Mukiele on the right. I liked the idea of attacking full-backs, but frankly, Mukiele has been all over the place defensively. Since we’re being more aggressive further forward, I reckon it’s worth taking a bit extra care at the back against Neymar and Lionel Messi. I’m sticking with Edmond Tapsoba ahead of Matthias Ginter at the back. He’s probably my fastest central defender, and I get a sense that’s important in FIFA.

“Axel Witsel returns from injury in midfield, so he goes straight in for Denis Zakaria. If we win, we’re through and Ligue 1 have nothing to play for, so I’m pretty confident. I figure our luck has to turn at some point.”

Julien Laurens (Ligue 1)

“Considering we’re already through to the semifinal, and already certain to finish top of our group as well, I have decided to rotate my squad and even change our tactical formation. This group has been too easy for us so far, and it will be good to rest some key players like Lionel Messi and Houssem Aouar. The Bundesliga have been so underwhelming in this competition, so this is a good opportunity to try different things.

“It will be interesting to see how the team does with a front two and without Messi. In midfield, I’m also trying a few different options. This is what great teams do. They are able to rest, rotate and try new players in their last group game because they have been so good and dominant before. This is where we are as a unit. I’ve told the players starting that this is their chance to impress me as well and show me they deserve to start in the semifinal. I’m thinking especially about Kylian Mbappe, who has been a bit frustrating, to start on the bench the first two games. He will start against the Bundesliga alongside Wissam Ben Yedder up front and has a point to prove.

“Overall, I’m curious to see how the back three and the 3-4-1-2 with Neymar as a No. 10 fares against this kind of opposition, and I also expect a solid performance overall from my boys, even if the Bundesliga first team has to be favourite against my B or C team!”


Bundesliga: 4-2-4, fast build-up (attack), press after long ball (defence)

First XI: Manuel Neuer; Stefan Lainer, Mats Hummels, Edmond Tapsoba, Angelino; Moussa Diaby, Joshua Kimmich, Axel Witsel, Filip Kostic; Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland

Substitutes: Andreas Luthe, Nordi Mukiele, Matthias Ginter, Raphael Guerreiro, Serge Gnabry, Andrej Kramaric, Denis Zakaria

Ligue 1: 3-4-1-2, balanced (attack), constant pressure (defence)

First XI: Anthony Lopes; Marquinhos, Jason Denayer, Facundo Medina; Youcef Atal, Benjamin Andre, Renato Sanches, Boubacar Kamara; Neymar; Wissam Ben Yedder, Kylian Mbappe

Substitutes: Pau Lopez, Hamari Traore, Tiago Djalo, Nuno Mendes, Houssem Aouar, Gelson Martins, Lionel Messi



Christopher Nkunku scores in the dying moments to send Gab Marcotti’s Bundesliga through ahead of Rodrigo Faez’s LaLiga side.



Nedum Onuoha (MLS)

“After a tough result against Ligue 1 — a 3-1 defeat — I’m desperate for a win, but I’m missing two key attackers: the main man, Josef Martinez, and his sidekick, Nani. It’s far from ideal, but I’m going to have to try and make the most of my squad, so in come Raul Ruidiaz and Yeferson Soteldo with a big opportunity to make names for themselves against elite opposition.”

Rodrigo Faez (LaLiga)

“Since I see myself as a favourite for this game, there’s no need to make big changes. I’m really confident that this team can get the three points, so I hope I can trust group leaders Ligue 1 to be professional and try to beat the Bundesliga.

“Inaki Williams and Memphis Depay have developed a decent partnership in the first two games, so I will keep them in attack. I am glad with the way Vinicius Junior is playing too, so I hope he scores the goal that sends my team through to the semifinals.”


MLS: 4-2-3-1, balanced (attack), balanced (defence)

First XI: Andre Blake; Kyle Duncan, Aaron Long, Miles Robinson, Kemar Lawrence; Diego Chara, Blaise Matuidi; Carlos Vela, Nicolas Lodeiro, Yeferson Soteldo, Raul Ruidiaz

Substitutes: Bill Hamid, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Kai Wagner, Giovani dos Santos, Yeferson Soteldo, Luis Araujo, Raul Ruidiaz

LaLiga: 4-2-3-1, balanced (attack), balanced (defence)

First XI: Jan Oblak; Kieran Trippier, Jules Kounde, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy; Frenkie de Jong, Marcos Llorente; Ousmane Dembele, Memphis Depay, Vinicius Junior; Inaki Williams

Substitutes — Unai Simon, Pau Torres, Jose Gaya, Sergio Canales, Mikel Oyarzabal, Karim Benzema



After being consistently overlooked in favour of Inaki Williams for Rodrigo Faez’s LaLiga side, Karim Benzema comes off the bench to score a crucial goal.




Kay Murray (Serie A)

“Never change a winning formula! Getting our first one is a real sign that things and are clicking with this team. My players have avoided serious injury and are in top health, and our chemistry is better than ever.

“The defence is a wall. It has a mix of tactical intelligence and pace which we know is key in this game. I expect my midfield will dominate possession, with my strikers also coming back and having the ability to link up. Ultimately, the Serie A best XI has no weakness.”

Fresia Cousino Arias (Eredivisie)

“The vibes are amazing within this squad! After two wins, all we need is a positive result against LaLiga to advance to the semifinals, a remarkable achievement for the Eredivisie.

“I’m so proud of this team, and therefore I’m sticking with the XI that beat the mighty Premier League. Joey Veerman and Fredrik Midtsjo are a perfect pivot in midfield, Steven Berghuis and Dusan Tadic combine well with Mario Gotze and Cody Gakpo, and this back four has held up nicely so far.”


Serie A: 4-3-1-2, balanced (defence), balanced (attack)

First XI: Samir Handanovic; Juan Cuadrado, Kalidou Koulibaly, Milan Skriniar, Theo Hernandez; Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Franck Kessie, Nicolo Barella; Paulo Dybala; Ciro Immobile, Lautaro Martinez

Substitutes: Mike Maignan, Leonardo Spinazzola, Giorgio Chiellini, Luis Alberto, Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa, Dries Mertens

Eredivisie: 4-2-2-2, balanced (attack), balanced (defence)

First XI: Justin Bijlow; Lutsharel Geertruida, Jurrien Timber, Marcos Senesi, Philipp Max; Joey Veerman, Fredrik Midtsjo; Mario Gotze, Cody Gakpo; Steven Berghuis, Dusan Tadic

Substitutes: Lars Unnerstall, Owen Wijndal, Riechedly Bazoer, Davy Klaassen, Joey Veerman, Eran Zahavi, Jesper Karlsson



Ciro Immobile and Paulo Dybala score early for Serie A to send them top of group B.



Mark Ogden (Premier League)

“After losing my second game against Eredivisie, it’s win or bust against Liga MX, so I’ve decided to go all out with an attacking line-up that includes some of the best creative and goalscoring players in the world.

“There are obviously risks attached to this approach, and it depends on the forwards delivering as expected. Some of them will have to do more defensively, but I’m hopeful that they will step up considering the stakes involved.

“If they don’t win, they’re out, so no more motivation is required.”

Herc Gomez (Liga MX)

“It’s going to take a lot to advance after two defeats, but a famous victory against the Premier League would put us into the final four and after seeing how they played against the Eredivisie, I think we can do it.

“We’re sticking with an attacking lineup built on pace from the wings and the finishing skill of Andre-Pierre Gignac in the middle. Our defence is going to press aggressively and when we win possession, we’ll flood the attacking third to try and take advantage. Let’s go!”


Premier League: 4-1-2-3, balanced (attack), press after losing ball (defence)

First XI: Edouard Mendy; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Ruben Dias, Luke Shaw; N’Golo Kante; Bruno Fernandes, Kevin De Bruyne; Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo

Substitutes: Ederson, Kurt Zouma, Kalvin Phillips, Jack Grealish, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, Sadio Mane

Liga MX: 4-3-3, fast build-up (attack), constant pressure (defence)

First XI: Nahuel Guzman; Juan Escobar, Matheus Doria, William Tesillo, Salvador Reyes; Richard Sanchez, Fernando Gorriaran, Luis Romo; Nico Lopez, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Maxi Meza

Substitutes: Guillermo Ochoa, Jorge Sanchez, Cesar Montes, Rogelio Funes Mori, Rubens Sambueza, Luis Montes, Orbelin Pineda



Mark Ogden thought his Premier League side were going out until Harry Kane fired home late on.


Group A

Bundesliga 2-1 Ligue 1

Lewandowski 7′, Nkunku 90′
Atal 62′

Major League Soccer 0-2 LaLiga

Benzema 62′, Canales 72′

Group B

Serie A 3-1 Eredivisie

Immobile 14′, Dybala 25′, Martinez 50′
Tadic 45′

Premier League 3-1 Liga MX

Kane 27′ 80′ 85′
Gorriaran 32′


Group A

Bundesliga 1-1 Major League Soccer
Ligue 1 2-0 LaLiga

Group B

Premier League 4-2 Serie A
Liga MX 1-2 Eredivisie


Group A

Bundesliga 1-1 LaLiga
Ligue 1 3-1 Major League Soccer

Group B

Liga MX 0-1 Serie A
Premier League 1-2 Eredivisie


Ligue 1 vs. Serie A
Premier League vs. Bundesliga


Winner SF1 vs. Winner SF2

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