FIFA101: Rack up the clean sheets with this defensive masterclass

Defending can be tough and mentally fatiguing in FIFA 21 Ultimate Team, but are you doing the basics?

Ensuring you are doing the right things will give you the best chance of keeping clean sheets and limiting your oppositions chances.

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If you are struggling though, we have FIFA Pro Marc "MarcMarleyy" Marley to give you his advanced defending top tips.


Doing the basics

Many of us have found defending to be the hardest part of the game this year but getting the basics right can help you massively.

“I think for Weekend League concentration [is most important] when defending, you don't want to be dragging your players out of position, you want to be as compact as possible,” said Marley.

“Everyone knows the AI is really good this year, so if you're a weekend player you've probably experienced that in 99% of your games the AI bails people out.

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BIG BATTLE - Your AI defenders can come to the rescue if you let it

“The basics for me would be just don't drag everyone out of place.


“That's when you can start working on your player switching and maybe pressing a bit higher and quicker as well.”

Trusting the AI can be daunting but staying in shape and remaining calm give you the best chance of preventing a goal.

Deep breaths

Defending around the box is tricky, especially given how easy it is to concede penalties this year.

“You don't have to panic when the ball gets into the box or towards the edge of the box,” explains Marley.

“Of course, you should be switching to the right player and trying to put a bit of pressure on the ball, but I see a lot of times people just panic and the switch to four different players in the space of three seconds.”

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LUNGING IN - There is no need to dive in and commit

This can leave space and time for your opponent to get a shot away, which emphasises the importance of correct player switching.


“Just get on either the defender or midfielder and drag them back into the space that the other team is occupying.

“Sometimes you can hope that the AI is going to bail you out.

“I think that's something that the better players do again, they know in certain situations maybe I don't need to go and control this defender and you’ll get away with it.”

Game changer

The most important aspect of defending in FIFA 21 Ultimate Team is player switching according to Marley.

“Player switching is pretty much the biggest skill gap when it comes to defending, and that's what usually separates the better players from the worse players,” he said.

“The thing I would recommend is the right stick player switching because when you press L1 or LB it won’t always put it on the player that you want to.

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PENALISED - The slightest touch can concede a penalty this year

“But, if you're using the right stick, you can actually change from the left-side of the pitch to the right-side pitch in just one flick of the right stick.


“It’s just so much better than having to press something four or five times to get on them.

“It can be a long process at times, it took me years to get to that pro level, but I definitely recommend people to start trying to learn it and you will improve on it.”

It could be worth practising this in the Live FUT Friendlies before taking it into the competitive Weekend League arena!


The in-game skills are the most crucial, but you can help your defence by setting it up correctly from the start.

“The five at the back, which a lot of people have been using recently, suit defending,” says Marley.

“At the same time, you need to be an okay player to use five at the back otherwise you will just get penned down and you won’t be able to get out at all.

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STRONG TACKLE - Be sure to win your 1v1 battles

“I'd say that's probably the best formation, 4-4-2 is really good for it as well, which is what I use because when you get it right you get two banks of four sitting in, and you've got two strikers to counter when you do get the ball as well.”


We have heard from pro players before about finding something that suits you, so this looks to be another case of practice makes perfect.

Formations are not the only way to help out your side as you can instruct each individual too.

“I always have the full-backs on stay back when I play 4-4-2,” said Marley.

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SOLID LINE - Keep your full-backs at home to stay safe

“One of the biggest ones, which I don't think a lot of people know about is put the centre midfielders (CMs) or CDM on cover centre so they're going to be in front of the two centre backs.

“The default setting is on 'cover wing' for whatever reason, sometimes you'll find them out of position but if you have cover centre on, then they should be in front of the two centre backs or three centre backs if you’re playing five back.”



Setting up correctly and nailing all your skills is great, but you need the right personnel to execute your plans.

When looking for certain attributes, Marley was clear in what he looks for.

“Pace is the biggest one (attribute) this year, definitely more than last year,” says Marley.

“Players like van Dijk are not too useable this year which is crazy.

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OUT OF FASHION - van Dijk is not the beast he was last season

“After that, I would say just stand tackle and aggression, and agility is actually a really good one that not all people look out for.

“If you've got a centre-back with high agility and good tackling you already know they are going to be good in-game.

“The meta is to put a full-back at centre-back, so Reece James, Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, there’s so many.

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THREE LIONS - Reece James is one of several popular FUT 21 defenders

“They will usually have more agility than out-and-out centre backs as well so and but yeah pace this year because the through balls are ridiculous and you'll get destroyed if you don't have pace at the back.”


The cover in front of your defence is important too, and your midfield needs to have a balance to it.

“I usually like one small one and one tall but it doesn't have to be,” Marley said.

“I need one more attacking centre midfielder though so I use Ruud Gullit which is the best in the game at being box to box and can play anywhere and will be everywhere on the pitch.

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GULLIT GANG - No other players has a set of cards named after them

“Having that CDM who will just sit back, Curtis Jones (Future Stars SBC) was a really good card that came out, and I’m sure Rodri (TOTS) could play that role.

“If you’re playing 4-4-2 you need a more attacking centre mid and then just have the other centre mid just on stay back and he sits in front of the defence and is a bit deeper than everybody else.”

Well, there you have it. We expect a low-scoring Weekend League now you are all experts at defending.