The Nutmeg Post:
Between the Turin and the Munich Legs
THE FIRST LEG IN TURIN
Bayern completely dominated the first two thirds of play, scoring twice and making Juventus look embarrassingly inferior in front of their fans. Then a predictable defensive error lead to Juventus’ first goal and the game’s only, profound momentum switch, igniting these fans and a resurgent Juventus equalized less than fifteen minutes later.
When it was all said and done, the first leg wasn’t all that statistically lopsided. Bayern ended up with 67% of the possession--standard for them and unnecessary for Juventus to have more--but only ended up taking two more shots (11) than Juventus (9). Interestingly, for a team that had two-thirds of possession, Bayern also had five more fouls than Juventus, something that will be touched on later in this post.
THE SECOND LEG IN MUNICH
With Juventus to play a standard 4-4-2 at Bayern’s Allianz arena, the home side will demonstrate a formation that defies a single descriptor and deserves further elaboration, as it may very well be the beta version for the way many teams convert their initial line-ups down the road to match the different mid-game modalities inherent in a game.
This is how Bayern have been starting their games lately. It is a formation that commits--at least positionally speaking--only five field players to defend, as opposed to the six or seven players normally asked to do so.
Yet most of the game, Bayern’s players will be arranged in this, second formation, with their one defensive midfielder, Arturo Vidal, sliding back between their center backs for long stretches to become the third defender and play essentially as a sweeper. Meanwhile both of Bayerns’ wing backs will venture upfield to join the midfield--sometimes even venturing further to overlap a wing midfielder.
With their wing defenders providing width, all four of Bayern’s attacking midfielders have license to seek the ball on the pitch’s ‘high ground’, with their two interior midfielders often making short, circular runs in search of space between defensive lines, looking like the rotary blades of a double egg-beater, churning up the off-the-ball action in that crucial area of the pitch, while the wing midfielders’ runs are often delayed and more linear, but they too often check-to centrally to get involved in build-up play. This amounts to various overloads in the midfield zone and Bayern’s offense can often look like a roving game of rondo, facilely tap-passing their way out pressure to a tournament-best possession average of 71%.
When Bayern lose the ball in the midfield, they quickly--even desperately--try and win it back. Against better teams who deal as well as you can with being outnumbered and under pressure, Bayern are willing to commit fouls in order to stop play and avoid being exposed at the back. Thus, their eighteen fouls to Juventus’ thirteen during the first leg-- despite having twice as much of the ball.
If their opponents are building from the back, or have been able to bypass Bayern’s furious midfield pressure via a timely backpass, then Bayern’s back four stay in place, as does Vidal and the central offensive midfielders. Their wing midfielders, however, pressure up along with their forward to keep the other team from getting comfortable, in a more standard Barcelona-like pressure system.
With key players Chiellini, Marchisio and Dybala missing out due to injury, Juventus have a tall task at hand away from home. But both of their second half goals in the first leg came after Marchisio had been subbed off for Hernanes (who will likely replace him tomorrow), and they were missing Chiellini for the entire first leg as well. Besides these consolations, they have earned a psychological advantage from from having fought back from two goals behind during the first leg after appearing to be dead and buried by Robben's goal; they may bring more patience and self belief to this contest as a result. It seems unlikely, however, that they won’t miss Marchisio’s quick-thinking and calm passing throughout the full ninety minutes of this second leg away from home, especially considering the numerical advantage (+2) Bayern’s midfield press benefits from. If Bayern is able to spook Khedira and Hernanes at the center of Juventus, they will likely roll.
Leading goalscorer Dybala’s absence will require Juventus to advance the ball up the wings, and will put pressure on Cuadrado to be consistent participant in advancing it up the right side of the field-- besides being merely a luxury dribbler in the corner. Perhaps Juventus’ worst performer during the first leg, Cuadrado used to be capable of offensive leadership in the days when Fiorentina’s offense ran through him. If he isn’t playing well, the ball will find its way to Pogba’s side disproportionately and Bayern will be able to key in on Juventus’ lopsided attack.
Alvaro Morata will replace Dybala and Juventus will line up with two big number nines knowing that Bayern's first choice center backs are injured and that their center-back pairing will contain Kimmich and/or Benatia. Kimmich was at fault for both of Juventus’ goals during the first leg, and while Benatia is at least a defender, he had a terrible pair of games against Barcelona in last year’s Champion’s League. Staying compact and not seeing much of the ball, Juventus will look to play wide and cross the ball into the box, pinning their hopes to these mismatches in the middle.
NOTES OF POTENTIAL INTEREST:
- Both Bayern and Juventus have lost recently, with Bayern falling to their first Bundesliga defeat to Mainz, and Juventus losing 0-3 to Internationale during the second leg of their Italian Cup tie--although they would later go on to win on penalties.
- Arjen Robben is ill and will most likely miss out, with the Bundesliga’s fastest player, Kingsley Coman, his probable replacement.
- After Robben’s 55th minute goal in the first leg, Bayern did not get a single shot on goal.
- From a tactical standpoint, it's a shame that Chiellini isn't healthy and Juventus can't line-up in their preferred, front-foot 3-5-2 formation, against what is essentially Bayern's 3-6-1. An eleven player midfield would have been an interesting novelty.