Bayern Munich put on another excellent away performance to defeat Juventus 2-0 and advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League yet again.
Antonio Conte stuck with his traditional 3-5-2, but Mirko Vucnic replaced Alessandro Matri, and was partnered with Fabio Quagliarella upfront. Paul Pogba and Simone Padoin featured in the starting lineup for the suspended Stephane Lichsteiner and Arturo Vidal. Kwadwo Asamoah also returned to Conte’s starting lineup, ahead of Federico Peluso.
It was no surprise that Jupp Heynckes’ men continued to play in a 4-2-3-1, with Mario Mandzukic leading the line. Arjen Robben and Javi Martinez were included in the starting line up for the injured Toni Kroos and Luiz Gustavo.
It was an impressive performance by Heynckes’ men, as they make their third semi-final appearance in the last four seasons. It was a truly breathtaking away performance from the newly crowned German champions, as they thoroughly dominated the Italian champions.
Juventus had a bright start to the match – it was a massive improvement compared to what transpired in the first leg. Matri and Vucnic were closing down the centre backs, while Asamoah and Padoin quickly closed down David Alaba and Phillip Lahm when they received the ball. In the opening 30 minutes, the Juventus midfield did a great job on Bastian Schweinsteiger. Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Vucinic occasionally dropped deeper to press the German midfielder, in which he had the worst passing rate of his career, at 64 percent.
Unfortunately, Juventus was unable to sustain that pressure, and Bayern were able to impose their authority in the match. Five Bayern players completed more than 50 passes, and they began to assert their dominance as Conte’s men began to tire.
Heynckes’ men pressed intelligently, and once again stopped Juventus from playing. Bayern’s front four pressed the Juventus front three and Andrea Pirlo, but at times they would sit off and let the Juventus defenders have the ball. There was no surprise that the Juventus defenders had the highest passing combination for the Italian champions, and this is what Bayern wanted. The German side sat off, and picked up the Juventus midfield three, which forced Juventus to play several long balls.
Bayern’s pressing was effective and they created more chances in today’s match. Juventus’ inability to replicate Bayern’s pressing allowed the Germans to assert their dominance from wide areas and in possession. Schweinsteiger and Martinez were rarely picked up and they dictated the tempo of the match.
Juventus’ right – Bayern attack down the flanks
Apart from Pirlo’s free-kick, Juventus rarely threatened in the final third. Pogba and Padoin combined well in the first half but they lacked the final ball. Asamoah failed to get the best out of Lahm, and often sprayed passes across the field. Vucinic also aimed to penetrate down that side, but not much came from it, as Bayern defended well.
Bayern’s wide players were nullified in the opening 30 minutes, due to Juventus’ pressure, but once Conte’s men tired, Lahm and Alaba surged forward, mainly down the right. Muller, Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery helped Lahm and Robben overload that right hand side. Ribery and Alaba also caused havoc on their flank, but with Ribery drifting centrally, the Frenchman often found himself connecting with Lahm and Robben.
Juventus wingbacks played narrow when Bayern had the ball, and this often left Robben and Ribery going 1v1 with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. The only worry here was that Mandzukic was left alone with Leonardo Bonucci, but Bayern failed to exploit that area.
Thomas Muller played behind Mandzukic for the injured Kroos, and the 23-year-old midfielder had a quiet, but decent match. He didn’t do a great job pressing Pirlo in the first half, and casually tracked him. This could have led to Heynckes’ decision to press the midfield and let the Juventus defenders have the ball.
Offensively, Muller did a great job in linking play with the wingers, and he received the ball several times in between the lines. When Juventus were pressing the German side, Muller was the key outlet in the midfield, and he often picked up the ball in between the lines unmarked. The German was unable to find the back of the net, despite having a few chances, but his all-around play was superb.
In the first half, Schweinsteiger delivered a splendid ball from a free-kick, and no Juventus player cleared it. Daniel Van Buyten got his head on the ball and it went wide of the net.
Schweinsteiger delivered the same ball in the second half and Juventus once again was unable to cope with the German’s delivery. Martinez attacked the ball this time, and Buffon saved his header, but Mandzukic headed the rebound into the net and ultimately ended the tie.
Considering the aerial presence that Juventus possess, one wouldn’t expect them to be vulnerable from set-pieces. They were fortunate not to concede in the first half, but against an elite side like Bayern Munich, teams can’t afford to make defensive mistakes of this nature.
Conte’s men failed to press in the second half, and Bayern continued to hold spells of possession for several minutes at a time. Juventus pushed forward and attacked, but left space in behind them for the Germans to capitalize on.
Juventus was unable to retain possession, and the German side strolled through the second half with ease. Heynckes’ side created numerous chances, but only Claudio Pizarro was able to add to Mandzukic’s opener.
Conte’s substitutions had no effect on the Bianconeri’s shape, as they were simply, like-for like changes. Juventus found themselves stretched on numerous occasions and they struggled to create chances in front of goal, due to another great display from Brazilian defender Dante.
Over two legs Bayern displayed that they were the superior side, producing two fantastic performances, against a strong Juventus side. They pressed better, created more chances and were worthy winners in both matches. They head into the semi-finals along with Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, and their domestic rivals, Borussia Dortmund. Although cup-ties of this magnitude can go either way, if the Bavarians can replicate performances of this quality, they can be considered favourites to do what they couldn’t in Munich last season.
Juventus’ European run has come to an end, and Conte will have learned more about his men through this experience. They were second best over two legs, against an elite European side. It was a successful run considering it was their return to European football, and experiences like this will only strengthen this side going forward. Conte will be disappointed in players such as Pirlo and Marchisio who were unable to showcase their talent on the big stage, against elite midfielders.
“I think that the best team went through, which they proved in both legs. This side has been working together for a long time and always reaches the latter stages. They were created to win, so I don’t think it’s absurd to say this is the best Bayern team of all time,” Conte said.
“When we were paired with Bayern, I said this was an opportunity for us to face an extremely strong side and understand the gap that separated us from the superpowers. This was an opportunity for us and we were basically newcomers to the Champions League after so many years out. We reached the quarter-finals, which in my view was something extraordinary,” he said.
1. Bastian Schweinsteiger
2. Javi Martinez
3. Franck Ribery