Connect with us

Tactical Analysis

Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: Tactical Analysis

Hours after announcing the unexpected signing of Mario Gotze from rivals Dortmund, Bayern Munich went ahead and shocked the footballing world again. It was uncharted territory for Barcelona. Rarely do opposition so significantly humiliate the Catalan giants. Some may say Barca got lucky in the previous rounds, overturning disappointing results in the 2nd leg. But after Bayern’s 4-0 thrashing at the Allianz Arena, it seems unlikely that Barcelona will get a shot at a 5th Champions League crown.

Bayern Munich have put the disappointment of last season behind them as they displayed a sensational performance in front of their home fans. Incredible organisation, constant pressing, effective counter-attack play & a refreshing change in European football.

Line Ups

The question being asked leading up to the game was whether Ballon D’or winner, Lionel Messi, would start for the away side. The Argentine did, seemingly despite lacking match fitness. The exclusion of David Villa was brought into question. 22-yr-old Marc Bartra started alongside Pique ahead of Song & Abidal, with Puyol & Mascherano ruled out with injury.

No real surprises for Bayern. Mario Mandzukic was most notable absentee, his namesake Gomez took his place. Jerome Boateng was selected to start ahead of Van Buyten, paired with Dante in the heart of Bayern’s defense. Rumours were that Bayern could go with 3 defensive midfielders, but they stuck to their principle, Muller playing behind the striker and Martinez-Schweinsteiger as usual behind them.

Made using our Tactics Creator App. Click here to make your own.

Made using our Tactics Creator App. Click here to make your own.


To stop Barcelona, neutralising their attack is vital. And to do that, keeping Lionel Messi out of the game is essential. Bayern Munich were clinical in this regard. Merely man-marking Messi rarely works. The little Argentine loves to have his opponents stick to him, thus allowing him to get past them. What AC Milan did effectively a few weeks back was have multiple men on Messi. Not necessarily man-marking. Man-marking Messi reduces that players involvement in other areas of the pitch. What Milan did (and Bayern last night) was have men closest to Messi close down on him, wherever he moved. A sort of zonal marking with two-three men constantly keeping him out of the game. It resulted in Barca’s false 9 being completely out of the game. His lack of fitness didn’t help either.

Bayern system

The above picture perfectly sums up Bayern’s system. Men completely on Messi, isolating him from any attack. The player in possession was pressed, his passing options were covered. Xavi was prevented from having any free space irrespective of whether he could directly influence the attack. Bayern Munich had done their homework.

Cutting out supply to Lionel Messi is imperative as well. Xavi remains the main supply source to the front man in Barcelona’s play. They followed a similar strategy with Xavi, albeit not so rigidly. But for much of the game, the battle in Barcelona’s midfield was between Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xavi Hernandez. The German constantly kept on the Spaniard through most of the game preventing him from having any real impact.

Xavi tried to use this to his advantage, and it worked for some part. Unlike his usual approach where he sits deep, he decided to avoid the nuisance of Schweinsteiger’s constant marking by advancing further forward. Messi already was dropping deeper to occupy a more central midfield role and moving towards the right flank. Xavi occupied that false 9 berth for a small part, pulling Schweinsteiger with him, which left a hole in the centre of Bayern’s midfield. It didn’t prove to be as costly as it should have though, because Bayern has a hard-working side that attack & defend in numbers. The two wingers Ribery & Robben tracked back to cover the flanks, and any gap left by a Bayern player. This also allowed Philip Lahm (who was extremely effective) and David Alaba on either flank to make runs down the channel. It was this overlapping run that even got the 4th goal.

Bayern defensive

Besides the wingers’ defensive duties, the two central attacking players in Gomez and Muller also dropped to assist the defensive duties of the team. It closed down the playing surface and prevented Barca from stretching the play.

A mention has to be made, to arguably the best player on the pitch, Javi Martinez. The ex-Bilbao man knew the Barca side better than any player and he displayed why he was so highly rated. It’s not just his physicality that is difficult to play against, or his aerial prowess. It’s his workhorse nature and hard-working attitude that make him a dangerous man in defence. He didn’t get involved regularly in possession, but it was his off-the-ball play that made him effective in breaking down Barcelona. He defended across the midfield, pressing Xavi & Iniesta, while also preventing Leo Messi to get into the game. He managed only 18 passes at an 86% completion rate but along with Schweinsteiger, they completed 13 successful tackles. The duo also made 7 interceptions. Preventing Barcelona in midfield, their main creative area, and the zone where Messi starts his attack from.

It would be unfair to give full-credit to Bayern’s defensive midfield duo. Their play extends further than that and wouldn’t have been possible without the work of the two wide men on either side, and the two attackers in front of them.

Barcelona usually manage to succeed due to the time allowed to them on the ball, right from defence into midfield. Teams usually only make it tight for them in attacking areas. What Bayern did was collectively press their opponents, right from the defensive third of the pitch. It didn’t allow the Spanish side to formulate any sort of attack. They still managed to play their passes and enjoyed 66% possession, but constant possession & passes did them no good as it didn’t come to any use.

Bayern pressing

It was their type of pressing that was important. Two men usually ran towards the defense when they had possession, but as they advanced further forward, more men were deployed against the man in possession. They crowded out the player in possession, pressuring him to concede the ball.

Bayern are regularly complemented  for their quick counter-attacking football. It was no different against Barcelona. They defended in numbers but immediately got back forward to attack. It was particularly helped by the fact that Barcelona maintain a high-line in defence, allowing their defenders to move into midfield areas. They stuck to their principles at the Allianz Arena as well, failing to adapt their approach based on the opposition. It could be seen for the 3rd goal, Pique ventured forward to support the attack & salvage an away goal. It left a gap at the back and when Bayern got possession at the edge of their own box, the defender was slow to get back, allowing Bayern & Robben in.

Another weakness of Barcelona that was exposed was their lack of any aerial threat. It allowed Bayern to win the aerial duels winning 11 out of 14. This also allowed Bayern to be threatening from set-pieces. The first two goals arrived as a result of an aerial duel and was enough to see off the opponents. With the likes of Gomez, Dante & Martinez in the side, Barcelona didn’t stand a chance when the ball left the ground.

The lack of creativity from Barcelona was evident, their midfield was shut out of the game. When the ball was with Barcelona in the centre, two opposing central Bayern players closed the man down. When it moved into the wider areas, one of the dropping wingers or the full-backs came in. There was no avenue to create an attack. It required immense organisation & discipline. An extremely professional approach and enough to win you the European Cup.

It took 68 minutes for Barcelona to get an effort on goal, a tame effort from Bartra. That was in fact Barcelona’s only shot on goal the entire game. 3 other shots proved to be ineffective. It shows you how poor Barcelona were in attack (or how strong Bayern were in defence) that a defender, Marc Bartra, took the most shots on goal for their side. A squandered opportunity from close range and that effort on goal. A 90% pass completion was all Barcelona could boast, along with their superior possession, but that doesn’t win you football matches.

Bayern too rely on their midfield, like Barcelona. But unlike their opponents, the German club’s midfield is quicker to create attacks rather than recycling balls in the midfield area. They were present to quickly distribute play from a defensive zone, immediately to the attacking third to foster quick counter attacks. 15 shots, almost half on target, despite only 34% possession is a representation of the above approach. They were more decisive in possession and  a clear idea of what to do with the ball.


A 4 goal deficit is too much to ask for even Barcelona. The Nou Camp brings out a different Barcelona, but with the class in Bayern’s side, it is unlikely that they’ll prevent the Bundesliga champions from a 2nd successive Champions League final appearance. The final score of Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona may have surprised many, but it showed Barcelona’s weakness in defence, aerial situations and lack of a Plan B.

For Bayern, this may be just the start of things to come. The league title is in the bag, a treble is quite possible, and there is the small matter of the arrival of a certain Pep Guardiola in the summer.

Click here to read all our other Tactical Analysis

Statistics from

Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar.
Sami Faizullah

100 to Watch


Talent Radar11 months ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #6: Luka Jovic, Anthony Martial and Reiss Nelson feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Talent Radar12 months ago

Talent Radar: A-League’s 10 Young Players to Watch in 2018-19

Brian Bertie writes about the 10 young players to watch in this season’s A-League. Australia have made rapid strides forward...

Interviews12 months ago

Interview: Abneet Bharti on Indian footballers abroad

SU Sintrense defender, Abneet Bharti, the only Indian footballer to be plying his trade in Europe, talks to Kaustubh Pandey...

Talent Radar12 months ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #5: Matthias De Ligt & James Maddison feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions12 months ago

Borja Fernandez: The underappreciated genius of ISL’s infancy

On the eve of the latest edition of the ISL, Arinjay Ghosh pays a tribute to Borja Fernandez, an ISL...

Opinions12 months ago

Tactical Philosophy: Domenico Tedesco

While this website has made its name focusing on the lesser known youth of this beautiful sport, and combined it...

Tactical Analysis1 year ago

Liverpool 3-2 PSG: Liverpool edge deserved victory against dysfunctional PSG

Siyang Xu writes a detailed tactical analysis about the UEFA Champions League match that ended Liverpool 3-2 PSG. Liverpool faced...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #4: Matthias De Ligt & Ousmane Dembele feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions1 year ago

UEFA Champions League: The 5 hipster sides to follow this season

Gear up with your organic ginger ale and mystical moustache oil, as Richard Pike briefs us about 5 off beat...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #3: Maxi Gomez & Marco Asensio feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions1 year ago

Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea: Tactical Approach & Key Players

Miles Olusina writes about Maurizio Sarri and the approach he is likely to take at Chelsea. Despite a successful 2016/17...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #2: Joe Gomez & Bertrand Traore feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #1: Joe Gomez & Kylian Mbappe feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions1 year ago

Julen Lopetegui at Real Madrid: Tactical Approach & Key Players

Aamer Aslam writes about what we can expect from European Champions Real Madrid after the arrival of Julen Lopetegui On...

Opinions1 year ago

Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli: Tactical Approach & Key Players

Charles Onwuakpa writes about Carlo Ancelotti and the approach he is likely to take on at Napoli. After three intense...

Scout Report1 year ago

Scout Report: Gonçalo Paciência | Eintracht’s exquisite forward

Jose Miguel Saraiva writes a detailed scout report about Eintracht Frankfurt’s striker, Gonçalo Paciência. For those who have been attentively observing...

Talent Radar1 year ago

Talent Radar: Liga MX’s 10 Young Players to Watch in 2018-19

Thomas Harrison writes about the 10 players to watch out for in the Liga MX for this coming season. Mexico...

Talent Radar1 year ago

20 Key Young Players to Watch from 20 La Liga Teams

Tom Canton takes a look at they key young players to watch from each of the 20 La Liga teams....

Scout Report1 year ago

Scout Report: Alphonso Davies | Speedy Canadian winger

Griffin O’Neill writes a detailed scout report about Alphonso Davies, the Vancouver Whitecaps winger. While many still believe that the...

Scout Report1 year ago

Scout Report: Diogo Gonçalves | Benfica’s tricky winger

Jose Miguel Saraiva writes a detailed scout report about Benfica’s tricky winger, Diogo Goncalves Having been deprived of their biggest...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More on Outside of the Boot

Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this