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In anticipation of the massive Champions League ties in the Quarter-Final stage, we’ve done something special for our build-up. Eight teams, eight experts, each giving us their insight into their team’s chances, tactical set ups and bold predictions.
Firstly, what are your thoughts on Bayern’s Champions League campaign so far?
When you look at the big picture, it is positive. The only loss was suffered against Manchester City, when it had no impact on qualification for the knockout stage. The game against Manchester United was frustrating but Bayern came out of it with an away goal. Given recent form, comparing to the 2:0 win against Juventus at the same stage a year ago and looking at the offensive struggles against Arsenal, there are warning signs. Bayern doesn’t have the same strong position that it had at the same point last season, but it is nothing that a great performance cannot fix on Wednesday.
Bayern Munich have been criticized this season for adopting too much of a Barcelona approach while Jupp’s approach was proving to be more successful. What are your thoughts on this?
This is a viewpoint that I share. I had the occasion to highlight the problem several times in tactical analysis pieces on my blog. In the last couple of months, there were occasions when Bayern was obsessed with making extra lateral passes even when its players had the opportunity to shoot or to make a pass to a player who was free on the wing. I understand Pep Guardiola’s wish to keep the ball and make the opponent run. It has worked to a certain extent. Many teams that were able to shut down Bayern for 45 or 60 minutes got tired and suffered a “goal explosion”.
MORE READING | Manchester United 1-1 Bayern Munich: Tactical Analysis
But in the last few weeks, more teams have found a way to hold on to a draw. This is a worry since coaches are figuring out the flaws in the system. In the first leg against United, FCB’s best scoring chances came from aggressive attacks, even against the parked bus. Tiki taka has shown its limits. It is time to make adjustments and make use of Bayern’s own strengths.
Continuing on from that, Guardiola’s Barcelona struggled to get past a Chelsea side which set-up defensively in the Champions League. Do you see that happening against Manchester United in the second leg?
Yes and no. It is now obvious for David Moyes that his players are able to go behind the ball, defend and wait for that one occasion to go forward and strike. At the same time, Bayern goes into this game with the ever-important away goal. If Bayern avoids the mistakes it has recently made when defending, there will be a point where United will have to attack to get their own away goal. Two of them would force the Bavarians to charge in great numbers and look for three goals, exposing the defence. Put yourself in Moyes’ shoes. He needs to kill this one early.
MORE READING | Jupp vs Guardiola. Were Bayern better last season than this?
Arsenal wasn’t going for the win in the second leg of the Round of 16…. and they didn’t get it. If you want to be patient with an even scoreline, you have to be aware that Bayern’s possession game has eaten up many teams’ stamina. Even if you do well, do you really want to run and defend for 120 minutes? I’m convinced that only Chelsea can do it.
David Moyes may be tempted to continue with the same approach in the second leg, one which Bayern struggled to get past in the first leg. What do Guardiola and his men have to do differently at the Allianz Arena?
Bayern needs to turn on the jets. Produce more runs, pass forward to Ribéry and Robben on the wings to create plays instead of passing laterally and back. Use your first-choice striker (Mandzukic) to receive crosses and create space for the other attackers. Use Bayern’s air game in the area and other strengths instead of emulating another team’s style. Less tiki taka, more “Heynckes ball”.
What would your starting XI for the second leg against Manchester United be, given the suspensions? How would you set them up?
4-2-3-1 | Neuer, Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Lahm, Kroos, Robben, Müller, Ribéry, Mandzukic
It is Bayern’s best starting XI given the suspensions. Mandzukic needs to be on the pitch from the start. His presence bothers central defenders and he’s good at meeting crosses that nobody can stop.
I won’t lie: I would like to have more youngsters to talk about, because it is a club with a good academy. The most interesting prospect who did not make the first team yet may just be Emre Can, who was sold to Bayer Leverkusen with a buyback clause. He has size, strength, can contribute to the attack and defend well. He can deliver crunching tackles. He picks up a lot of yellow cards, but you can’t just have 5’7″ ballerinas in a football team.
Otherwise,other young talents such as Julian Green, Mitchell Weiser and Pierre-Émile Højbjerg still need development. You should also keep in mind that Bayern has very young first-team players who could form a core for several years. Alaba and Götze are only 21. Thiago and Shaqiri are 22. Even guys who have been around for several years, such as Kroos and Müller, are just 24.
Finally, if you were to make a prediction for the tie, who do you see going through? Any particular scoreline for the second leg?
I do think that Bayern will win this, but it may be complicated if Pep Guardiola doesn’t make a few tactical changes. But I’ll go ahead and predict 2:0.
Is Guardiola’s Bayern side good enough to go all the way in the Champions League? Can you see a surprise at the Allianz Arena? Let us know by dropping in a comment below.
For the rest of our interviews from this series and all our other interviews, head this way.