Former champions Juventus traveled to Munich to take on German giants, Bayern Munich at the Allianz arena in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final which eventually finished Bayern 2-0 Juventus.
The home side started as expected, with Lahm, van Buyten, Dante and Alaba in defence. Luiz Gustavo played in midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. The wide areas were patrolled by Ribery and Thomas Muller, while Toni Kroos played behind the lone frontman Mario Mandzukic.
The Bianconeri had veteran keeper Buffon in goal, and played their usual 3-5-2 formation. At the back, Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci were selected. The midfield trio of Marchisio, Pirlo and Vidal were handed the unenviable task of stopping Bayern’s midfield. Out wide, Lichtsteiner started on the right, and Peluso on the left. The front line consisted of Matri and Quagliarella to start with.
Alaba on the overlap:
In what was a dream start for Bayern, David Alaba’s long range effort found the back of the net via a small deflection. But what was significant about the goal was the fact that left back Alaba popped up in the centre of the opposition half. In modern day football, attacking full backs have become the norm but they normally stay close to the touchline often going on the outside of the play and doubling up on the opposition full back. However, Alaba was content to let Ribery or any of the other Bayern attackers take on Lichtsteiner while he cut infield and made the extra man in the inside left channel and at times even in a central position.
Fluidity of Bayern front line:
Toni Kroos’ injury in the 16th minute meant that Arjen Robben patrolled Bayern’s right. However the likes of Mandzukic, Mueller and Ribery were constantly interchanging positions and were a constant threat for the Juve defence. Ribery in particular had an excellent game and relished a free role, often popping up centrally on the right in addition to his starting left role. This tactic nearly paid dividend on multiple occasions especially in the 19th minute when Robben should have at the very least tested the keeper instead on putting his effort wide.
As we’ll see later Juve were intent on playing the ball out from the back. Bayern countered this by pushing their frontline right up especially from goal kicks. Ribery and Mandzukic were always quick to close down Barzagli and Bonucci. A direct result of this is that one of the 3 Juve central midfielders were forced to come deep which not only isolated the strikers but also led to Bayern’s midfield dominance.
With Juve having a man advantage in the centre of the park, one expected them to dominate midfield especially with the likes of Pirlo and Vidal in the eleven. However this man advantage was nullified to great effect by Bayern’s tactics. As mentioned above their high pressing forced the midfield triumvirate of the Bianconeri deep. Also Peluso had trouble keeping Robben quiet and often Marchisio was forced to double up on the Dutchman thus ensuring Schweinsteiger and Gustavo had more space to dictate play for the German leaders.
Juventus played their characteristic 3-5-2 formation with Lichtsteiner and Peluso featuring in the right and left wing back roles respectively and with 3 central midfielders. Thus both Lichtsteiner and Peluso were expected to provide attacking impetus from both the wings. While Lichtsteiner played his part well and in fact during the first half was Juve’s main attacking threat, Peluso failed to fulfill both roles as he was often penned back by the attacking threat of Robben. As a result, Juve posed little or no attacking threat down the left.
Playing from deep:
The 3 men in defence namely Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini were always ready to receive the ball from Buffon especially from goal kicks where the 3 of them arranged themselves in what was roughly a triangle on the edge of the penalty box. In theory this was a good tactic with as this would ensure the wingbacks could push themselves high up the field, and at least one of the 3 central midfielders could drive into the opposition half linking up with the front 2. However, owing to Bayern’s high pressing the 3 defenders were put under pressure and failed to retain the ball inviting pressure on to themselves.
Isolation of front 2 and failure to control midfield:
Owing to the defenders’ inability to retain the ball, the midfield was forced to come deep. Attacking wise this led to the isolation of the strikers Matri and Quagliarella. With the absence of genuine width as well, Juve’s play became more and more dependent on long balls up the field. Defensively also the lack of an outlet hurt Juventus as this invited pressure on to their defence. The midfield opened up for Bayern and in stark contrast to their opponents, the Bayern midfield and defence moved up the pitch and strangled the pitch. There was a visible difference in the 2nd half with Juve playing higher up the pitch.
In the 75th minute, Pogba replaced Peluso and this was accompanied by a change in formation for the Italian team. They now lined up in 2 banks of 4 with Marchisio and Vidal being pushed a bit further wide and Lichtsteiner playing in a more conservative right back position. While this could be attributed to Bayern sitting on their two goal lead, Juventus looked to be a more solid unit. The midfield utilized the width of the pitch more effectively.
Bayern would be more than pleased with the result. Securing a healthy 2 goal lead and equally importantly a clean sheet at home, they would fancy their chances of being in the draw for the next round. However, Juventus are no pushovers and would have the belief that they could still turn the tie around. And with their second leg loss to Arsenal fresh in their minds, Bayern will certainly not be taking things lightly.