Juventus welcomed Bayern Munich to the Juventus arena on a night where they needed a minor miracle to turn around a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. The feat had only been replicated once before, by Barcelona in the previous round against AC Milan.
The home side made two mandatory changes, Lichtsteiner and Vidal, sitting out through suspension, were replaced by Padoin and Pogba respectively. The rest of the team was familiar, as they started in their 3-5-2 formation, with Kwadwo Asamoah returning on the left wing. Up front, Vucinic started along side Fabio Quagliarella. The back 3 remained the same, along with Pirlo and Marchisio, who along with Pogba completed the midfield.
Bayern Munich were able to summon on the services of a returning Javi Martinez, who lined up with Schweinsteiger in the middle of the park. The front 4 comprised of Robben and Ribery (‘Robbery’ as they’re often reffered to) on the wings, and Muller playing behind Mandzukic. At the back, there were nochanges initially, but van Buyten had to make way for Boateng eventually due to injury.
Front 2 dropping off:
The Juventus front 2 of Quagliarella and Vucinic never really stayed too close to the Bayern defence. They played significantly deeper, and initially pressed the Bayern midfield in their own half to stop them playing. In an attacking sense, they were looking to get close to their midfielders and receive the ball, and launch forward quickly. The idea was to drop off to receive the ball, and play each other, or the willing Claudio Marchisio in. However, this tactic failed to reap the expected rewards, as Bayern shifted their passing in the initial stages to their very capable defenders. Eventually, the Juve forwards found themselves trying to cover to large an area of the pitch defensively, and were comprehensively outnumbered. This allowed Bayern to establish their dominance of the game.
Juventus needed to score at least 2 goals on the night in order to go through, and obviously, this required an attacking approach. While they started brightly, the Bianconeri seemed to fade as the match went on, and they started playing deeper and deeper. They didn’t ever seem to have enough men in dangerous enough attacking positions to threaten Bayern Munich. Their 3 shots on target were from outside the area/edge of the area (1 direct free kick from Pirlo) and this was due to the fact that were too deep. This impacted their attacking play negatively, and also allowed Bayern Munich a lot of time on the ball. This was probably because Conte was wary of the pace that the opposition had, and this pace made his players look much weaker.
Weakness up front:
That Juventus are looking for a couple of top strikers in the summer window is a well known, and generally accepted fact. The performance of the front two in this match-up showed exactly why. The strikers were unable to retain much ball possession, and didn’t really cause the Bayern back-line any trouble. Indeed, the most danger Juve created was from a piece of play involving Padoin and Pogba, where the latter ended up crossing across the face of goal only to see that no striker was available to score. Another point that has been brought up in relation to the striker position has been the requirement of a second striker. According to many the solution is at Juventus in the form of Giovinco, who was sorely missed today, as Pirlo was effectively checked, and Juve needed a creative spark up top. The final ball was absent, and no goals were scored because no chances were created.
The tactic that Conte employed was to employ the inside channels. As Juventus can get more men forward in wide areas with their 3 man midfield and wing backs, they tried to overload Lahm and Alaba. Padoin and Asamoah were charged with the duty of making their usual energetic runs downs the wings, and the space that was created when the Bayern full backs moved out to close them down was to be run into by midfielders like Pogba and Marchisio. This worked well a the start of the game, with Marchisio getting a couple of opportunities to shoot as well as play through balls, and even Pogba created Juve’s best opening in this way.
Juventus seem to play well when their talisman Andrea Pirlo plays well. Jupp Heynckes seems to have understood this, and his team managed to keep the Italian maestro under wraps over the 180 minutes. In the second leg, they had Thomas Muller close to him every time Juve got the ball. This made the other players avoid passing to him as he could be closed down easily, and when he did receive the ball, he was instantly closed down. This was the larger part of the tactic, as the presence of Muller made Pirlo move higher up the pitch, and further away fro his defenders, making it tough for Juve to move the ball out of defence. As he tried to receive the ball higher up the pitch, he was constantly hounded by Martinez and the phenomenal Schweinsteiger. The midfield duo was on top form, with Martinez sweeping up anything that sprang loose, and Schweinsteiger just dominating with his passing. Martinez made 4 interceptions, and 3 tackles, while the German made 4 interceptions and 4 tackles. Both also won all headed duels they were involved in.
Passing into wide areas:
As Juventus play a 3-5-2 formation, there is often space behind the wing bakcs for opposition wingers to exploit. The 3 defenders in Juventus’ back line have to try and counter such threats from opposition attackers, and onsequently get drawn into wide areas. Bayern tried to use this to their benefit, with Robben and Ribery getting well wide, and attracting Barzagli and Bonucci to them several times. This created space for the likes of Muller and Mandzukic to run into.
Possession and Tempo:
At the Champions League level, control of the ball, and consequently control of the game is the key to victory. With 59% possession, Bayern bossed the proceedings and dictated the pace of the game. In order to stretch the game, they often used a repetitive pattern of passing, with the ball being played back to the defence from the wide areas, and then to the midfielders, who took advantage of the fact that the Juventus wing backs had pushed up, the centre backs had been dragged out of position, and the midfielders were forced to drop deep to cover in defence. This pattern meant that the Bayern midfielders had plenty of time and space, and knowing those two, they didn’t let the opportunity slip, and made the Italian champions pay a heavy price. In total, the Bavarians attempted a humongous 540 passes, at an excellent rate of 85%. Schweinsteiger and Martinez alone accounted for 134 of those passes. The fact that the Juventus team was so deep and couldn’t really close down didn’t hurt Bayern’s chances, and only aided them.
All in all, on a night when Juventus had to gamble in order to score the necessary goals, Conte lacked the will power to take the risks, and paid with a heavy defeat. Bayern Munich are probably the most complete team in Europe, as they looked strong all over the pitch, and head into the nextround as probably favourites to win the competition.
Stats via whoscored.com and squawka.com.