Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross focuses on the 3.5 star clubs and above as he reveals the great teams to use online…
Thanks for stopping by to read this week’s Backpage.
It’s been an eventful and brilliant FIFA-related ten days or so for me. First off I was lucky enough to be invited to appear on episode 14 of EA’s TV show Pwned to give some tips of defending – check it out on EA Vision if you’re looking for a few pointers there.
I also got my hands on a very early build of FIFA Street, which I’ll tell you more about another time but it’s all looking very good.
And I managed to finally nick promotion to Division 3 in Head To Head Seasons after previously bottling it in my final game on three separate occasions. It’s amazing how intense those matches were and how nervous they made me… I guess I’m just not a big-game player!
After each one I found myself feeling absolutely knackered as well as completely gutted that I’d blown it again, but on this occasion I held on to bag that last crucial point needed to send me up. And when I say I held on, I really mean it. Needing a draw to clinch promotion, I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I kept the ball in the corner to see the clock out for the last minute or so of the game. Hypocritically that’s something that drives me crazy when other players do it to me, but I’ve since began to feel less guilty after telling myself it’s something that teams do in real-life so it’s okay, right?
Erm, let’s move on quickly before I get the guilts again…
So anyway, the team I used to get to Division 3 were Santos Laguna, who you may remember featured in last week’s Backpage about the best 1-3 star teams in Head To Head Seasons. I’ll probably stick with them for another game or two – call it loyalty – but then I’ll eventually go up the star rating system and play as a team with a bit more quality to keep things varied.
Which brings me conveniently on to the theme of this week’s blog… the best 3.5 star and above teams to use online.
Before we get started, I want to give a nod to the readers of the Backpage who tweeted their favourite teams using the hashtag #H2Hteams recently. They suggested some cracking clubs that I hadn’t mentioned, so it’s well worth taking a look at that too.
Okay, let’s get started on the big fish…
3.5 STAR CLUBS
Celtic are a very useful 3.5 star club. I’ve been unlucky enough to face them while using Santos Laguna a few times – the game will pit you against teams within half a star of the one you’re using if there’s no exact match – and they can be a nightmare to play against if the other guy knows what he’s doing.
When I use them I go with a 4-1-2-1-2 and partner Kelvin Wilson with Wanyama at the centre of defence, as that gives me more pace which can be handy for recovering if a tackle is missed. Then I go with Mark Wilson at right-back and bring Izaguirre in from the sidelines to play on the left. He’s one of The Bhoys’ best players but starts in the reserves due to having a long-term injury in the real world.
Kayal holds the midfield with Scott Brown to his right and Kris Commons to his left. Playing in the hole is Joe Ledley, who you’ll find on the bench, which gives me a really strong midfield four at this level.
The best is yet to come though – Celtic’s strike partnership of Stokes and Hooper is class. Hooper is the better of the two in my opinion, purely for that extra bit of pace and the slightly higher Finishing stat of 80, which makes him lethal in the box.
My second choice of 3.5 star club isn’t a club at all actually… I go for Ecuador.
The biggest problem you have with Ecuador is that not many players like facing international teams, so you get a lot of early-game quitters who hop out before the five-minute mark.
But if you do manage to get a match started then you’re in for a treat as Ecuador have a lot of very good players. Three in particular stand out, and they’re all current or ex-Premier League stars – Man United winger Valencia, former City striker Caicedo and – best of all – ex-Birmingham player Christian Benitez.
I use Benitez and Caicedo in the right and left striking positions in the default 4-4-2. Right-footed Benitez is quick, agile, a good dribbler and a great finisher, while the left-footed Caicedo is the powerhouse. He has 93 for Strength and 81s for both Aggression and Finishing.
Valencia plays on the right in an unchanged midfield, then all I do is swap the awful Araujo with G. Caicedo at centre-back, and replace
Elizaga with Banguera in goal.
Elizaga with Banguera in goal.
4 STAR CLUBS
We’re heading to Russia for this one, as both of the four-star teams I recommend play in the Russian Premier League.
First up is newly-rich Anzhi Makhachkala, the Manchester City of Russia who’ve been splashing the cash on big-name stars like Roberto Carlos, Yuri Zhirkov and – biggest of all – Samuel Eto’o.
Unsurprisingly, Anzhi are all about Eto’o. At four-star level you’ll face teams with weak defences that lack genuine pace – hello Aston Villa – and Eto’o can be devastating against these. He has the speed and dribbling ability to get away from most markers, but it’s his finishing stat that really stands out – 91.
Anzhi’s default formation has Eto’o as the lone frontman, which doesn’t get the best from him in my opinion. I prefer to use him alongside another striker so it’s easier to link him up with a one-two, and I usually go with Diego Tardelli here in a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Behind those two is Dzsudzsak who can dribble, pass, take free-kicks and has a great Long Shot stat, with ex-Chelsea winger Zhirkov on the left and Carcela-Gonzalez on the right. Central midfield is made up of the skilful Boussoufa and the awesome Roberto Carlos, who is a little out of position but still much more effective than his stats would suggest.
I don’t usually like playing with a back three but I have had quite a lot of joy with this formation as it seems to fit the players very well. The pacey – if a little short – Angwar moves into the centre, with Joao Carlos to his left and Jucilei on the right. Jucilel is a midfielder really but he can play at the back and is the best option here. Revishvili keeps his place in goal.
I also like Anzhi’s rivals Spartak Moscow and I again use three at the back with them, picking the attack-minded 3-4-3 formation.
Spartak have something in common with Anzhi because they also have a forward who’s much better than the rest of their players, in this case the Brazilian striker Welliton.
He’s got 90s for Acceleration, Jumping and Sprint Speed, plus high 80s for everything else that counts in this position, and I use him on the left of the front three where he can cut in on his dominant right side. In the centre is the ridiculously strong Dzyuba who forms the focal point of the attack, and he’s supported by the even stronger Eminike on the right.
Just behind them is Carioca in the centre who’s my creator, and I bring in Aidan McGeady on the right with Ari on the left. Both are quick, skilful and dangerous around the area.
Holding the midfield is the workhorse De Zeeuw, who plays in front of a back three that has Pareja in the centre with Rojo and Parshivlyuk either side. No need to change Dikan in goal.
4.5 STAR CLUBS
If you’ve read the Backpage before then you might have seen me banging on about CSKA Moscow. I think they’re great, but I make loads of changes from the default formation and line-up so it takes a bit longer to get to kick-off.
The first major change is in goal where Chepchugov comes out for Akinfeev, who is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He’s out with a long term injury, which is why you won’t find him in the starting line-up in FIFA 12, but you’ll want to get him in – his Overall of 84 should be enough to convince you.
In a 4-1-2-1-2 Odiah comes in a right-back with Nababkin moving to the right central defensive position. He’s faster than Ignasevich. Next to him is Schennikov who moves over from left-back, with ex-Man. United winger Zoran Tosic coming in to fill the space you just created.
Tosic really isn’t a full-back – which you’ll realise when you watch his rating drop from 77 to 40-something – but it suits me to play him here as I like to attack with my full-backs and Tosic has many useful attributes there.
Breaking up play ahead of the back four is Aleksei Berezutskiy, who’s a bit of donkey in the game but I don’t mind that. In this position his height and strength really count for something and he often dominates midfield in my games.
Former Liverpool winger Mark Gonzalez comes in from the reserves to play on the left-wing, and I pick Oliseh to play on the right. He can feel a bit unresponsive at times but he’s strong and his flat-out pace is very good so I often use him to alleviate some pressure on my defence by having him run off with the ball.
The excellent Keisuke Honda plays in the hole where I can get the most out of his passing and long-range shooting abilities, then I switch Doumbia to right striker with Love on the left. Both are quick, skilful, powerful, good at finishing and better in the air than you’d expect.
There really aren’t any weaknesses in this line-up – I can’t recommend CSKA highly enough.
Having said that, when I’m playing as CSKA I often come unstuck against good Napoli players.
I don’t use them that often myself because I’m not a massive fan of their defence, but they’re a very popular choice for players in H2H Seasons and that’s for three main reasons – they’ve got three awesome attacking players and their default 3-4-2-1 formation, which is really a 3-4-3, definitely makes the most of them.
The third reason is that you don’t really need to touch their starting line-up at all, as all of their best players are in it by default. All I’d say is make sure you’re comfortable with a back three before the game starts, otherwise you’ll be all over the place.
5 STAR CLUBS
Confession time, I almost never play as any five star clubs.
Fortunately for the purposes of this week’s blog, I’ve got a good friend in the MATCH office who does and his knowledge and credentials – he’s in Division 1 – together with the handful of five-star games I’ve experienced means I can say with some confidence that your best bets are Real Madrid and Man. City.
Of course there are the obvious teams right up there with them, but Barça aren’t quite as physically powerful, Chelsea aren’t as dangerous as they were in FIFA 11 and… I could go on but I’m running out of words and you’re probably running out of patience.
So, here’s why I think Real and City are good choices.
Real Madrid are a match for anyone with their default starting line-up and formation, but they can be improved further by switching to a 4-1-2-1-2 and making a few small changes to the line-up.
Sergio Ramos moves over to the centre to partner Pepe, which means slow coach Ricardo Carvalho gets the hook and Arbeloa comes in at right-back. On the left of the defence you can go for either Marcelo or Coentrao. I prefer Marcelo as he feels a bit more responsive, but there’s not much in it.
Ditching the 4-2-3-1 means you no longer need two holding players as one is enough, especially when that one is Xabi Alonso. To his right I go with Kaka and I have Di Maria on the left.
Mesut Ozil plays in the hole which means Ronaldo moves to the right striker role. Incredibly, this actually makes his 92 rating GO UP to 93 – you’re effectively making Ronaldo even better. I don’t think I need to talk about his attributes too much, do I?
Next to Ron is Benzema who gets the nod over Higuain because he’s that bit quicker. Higuain is the better finisher though, so swap those two if you prefer.
Man. City can also be improved with a bit of tinkering.
Out goes the 4-2-2-2 and again I go for a 4-1-2-1-2 here, as it seems to be a better fit for the players City have.
Micah Richards is the obvious choice for right-back but you’ve got a tougher decision to make on the left. Clichy is quicker and slightly better on the ball, but he’s shorter than Kolarov who is a more effective at crossing and much more dangerous when shooting from long range. The fact that he’s decent at free-kicks can be ignored – you won’t be taking them with him as that job will fall to Nasri.
There’s not a great deal between Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott either, but personally I prefer Lescott as he’s slightly taller and better in the air.
Yaya Toure is clearly perfect for the holding role so it’s bye-bye to Gareth Barry, with Nasri on the right and the magician David Silva on the left.
Controversially I pick Tevez to play behind the front two of Dzeko and Aguero, which annoys me a bit as I’d like to get Balotelli in but I feel those three just give me that little bit more. Dzeko and Aguero are better finishers and I like the big-man, small-man thing.
Right, that’s your lot.
I hope you enjoyed reading this Head To Head Seasons guide over the last couple of weeks, and fingers crossed you’ll be back to the Backpage soon.
Oh an don’t forget, tweet your favourite H2H clubs by using the hashtag #H2Hteams
Thanks for reading.
See you next time,
Have a good week,