Match in a sentence
Bayern Munich are one step closer to a second consecutive Champions League final, after producing a fantastic performance, which saw them defeat Barcelona at the Allianz Arena.
- Jupp Heynckes stuck with his traditional 4-2-3-1 as Mario Gomez led the line for the suspended Mario Mandzukic. Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery played behind the German striker, while Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger protected the back four. Bayern Munich was still without the injured Toni Kroos, while Jerome Boateng started over Daniel van Buyten.
- Lionel Messi was declared fit to play in Tito Vilanova’s 4-3-3, as Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez played alongside the Argentinian forward. Vilanova’s midfield three consisted of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. Cesc Fabregas and David Villa were on the bench, while Adriano was suspended.
- Bayern Munich was tactically superb for the entirety of the match and despite Barcelona dominating possession, Heynckes’ men exploited Barcelona’s weaknesses.
- The main feature in this match was pressing; many were skeptical about Bayern’s abililty to press Barcelona, but yet again Heynckes got it right. Bayern sat in the midfield and allowed Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra to play balls forward. Bayern rarely pressed Vilanova’s men high up the pitch unless they were playing balls from the back on goal kicks or free kicks.
- Barcelona’s pressing was effective in the opening minutes of the match, as they looked to prevent Bayern from playing from the back. Since Vilanova took over, they’ve tended to sit off and allow teams to play forward, which has led to them being exposed defensively. Bayern eventually began to play through the pressing as Boateng and Schweinsteiger found gaps in between the midfield that they played through.
- When Heynckes’ men didn’t have the ball they were tactically disciplined, and they prevented Barcelona from stamping their authority on the match.
Robben and Ribery tracked the runs of Dani Alves and Alba, which prevented the surging fullbacks from creating overloads with Sanchez and Pedro. The manner in which Bayern handled the midfield was rather impressive; prior to the match many questioned whether Gomez would be able to replicate Manzukic’s duties, but he did so willingly. Gomez dropped deeper to press Busquets, when Muller was unable to, and it disrupted the rhythm of the midfield. Muller and Gomez got close to Busquets constantly, and they stayed tight when Bayern didn’t have the ball, creating a 4-4-2.
- Schweinsteiger and Martinez did an exceptional job nullifying Xavi, Messi and Iniesta. Schweinsteiger got close to Xavi on several occasions, and shadowed Messi when he dropped deep into the midfield.
Iniesta was hounded by Martinez, prohibiting the Spaniard from gliding forward. Martinez and Schweinsteiger were fantastic on the night, pushing the Barcelona midfield deeper, and despite dominating possession- it was the areas they held the ball in, and their inability to penetrate that mattered.
- On the offensive end, Schweinsteiger dropped closer to the Bayern centre backs towards the end of the first half, to keep a grasp on the match. Both men won the ball in midfield and would drive forward to spread an advancing pass when the opportunity presented itself. In the second half, Schweinsteiger got forward often on the counter, linking play with the Bayern wingers – something Iniesta failed to do for Barcelona. Schweinsteiger had the most influence going forward when he pushed forward behind Muller, due to the introduction of Luiz Gustavo.
Two hours prior to kickoff, Barcelona released a statement declaring Messi fit to play. Unfortunately, it was evident that Messi was nowhere close to 100%, as he struggled throughout the entire match. The Argentine found himself dropping deep into the midfield to receive the ball, conceding possession at will, and instead of shrugging off defenders with his pace, he opted to make sideways passes. Messi didn’t look confident to take players on at full speed, in fear of causing more damage to his hamstring – which meant he had minimal influence on the match.
- Of the four goals Barcelona conceded, two of their main weaknesses were exploited. The first two goals exploited their inability to deal with set pieces. Now this has been a severe problem for them, especially when Carles Puyol has been sidelined. The departures of Seydou Keita, Yaya Toure and the absence of Eric Abidal, has seen Barcelona lack an aerial presence, but teams have failed to target this weakness. The first two goals stemmed from balls being whipped into the far post, which Alves failed to win. Dante and Muller nodded the balls across goal and Barcelona failed to pick up both Muller and Gomez. Bayern nearly got their third from a Robben header, which came from another set piece, but it was clear that Bayern were looking to trouble Barcelona’s weaknesses aerially.
- In the first half, Alves and Pedro connecting on the right flank was positive going forward. Unfortunately with Barcelona looking to grab an away goal, Alves looked to get forward constantly.
Pedro and Sanchez were isolated on the flanks, so Pedro found himself dropping deep centrally to receive the ball. This led to Sanchez and Pedro swapping flanks, and Messi drifting to the right, which had minimal effect on the match. Alves had no player to link with going forward, and he often found himself out of position when Bayern launched their counter attacks.
- One of Barcelona’s weaknesses this season has been the defensive imbalance they possess with two attacking fullbacks. Alba and Alves provide width, but with both men bombing forward it leaves Vilanova’s men vulnerable at the back, and Bayern exploited the space provided. From as early as the first minute, Robben made a forward run unmarked and nearly gave Bayern the lead. Mainly on Alves’ side in the second half, Ribery and Alaba were able to surge forward and their overlap led to the fourth goal. Bayern’s performance tonight has highlighted why Barcelona need a defensive minded fullback, but also the possible end of Alves’ time with the Catalan side.
- Barcelona finally met their match tonight, as all the weaknesses during their era of dominance were exploited. Messi not being 100% played a factor, but the performances of a few players highlighted that change is needed. Vilanova’s inability to change the game by bringing on Villa earlier or Fabregas will be questioned, but ultimately Heynckes’ men were too good on the night. The absence of Tito and the injury to Messi, Puyol and Mascherano have affected the Catalan side, but their performances throughout this tournament in the knockout round have been below par. Defenders and better attackers should be addressed in the off-season, but unless we witness a miracle, today was the day Bayern Munich knocked Barcelona off their perch.
- Bayern Munich produced a master class performance; they possess the players to nullify Barcelona’s midfield, they attacked the space available due to the advancing fullbacks and attacked them on set pieces. Many questioned how the Bavarian’s would cope without Kroos and Mandzukic, and they provided us with another scintillating performance on a European night.
“The players have proven time and again that we have no B team, only an A team.” – Jupp Heynckes prior to the match
The loss to Chelsea last season was heartbreaking for Munich players and fans, but they’re 90 minutes away from a trip to Wembley where they’ll be favourites to avenge that loss. Tonight was potentially the start of a new era – how fitting that Bayern Munich saved it for a monumental European night, months before former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola takes charge of the Bavarian side.
“I am happy about the result, but I am not getting carried away. I know we still face 90 very difficult minutes in Spain. We will enjoy what happened tonight, but nothing more. It is important to stick to your tactical guidelines against Barcelona and that is what makes my team stand out this year.” – Heynckes post-match
- Barcelona have now won three of their last 16 away matches in the Champions League knockout stages
- Javi Martinez has won his first game against Barcelona in 15 attempts
- Barcelona equal their worst losses in Europe, which were 4-0 results, in November 1997 vs Dynamo Kyiv and in the 1994 final against AC Milan in Athens
- Bayern have progressed on all three previous occasions (all European competitions) when they won 4-0 in the first leg at home
- Only three teams have progressed after a 1st leg loss with at least a 4-goal margin (all European comp.): Real Madrid, Partizan Beograd, Leixões SC.
- Müller has scored seven Champions League goals in 2012/2013. Only one German player has scored more in a single season: Mario Gomez (8 + 12)
Stats via @InfostradaLive