Tag Archives: Robben

Zidane’s Real Madrid wins battle in wide areas against Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich

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Real Madrid’s quest for a historic European cup/league double was under significant threat when they drew Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, but as typified under Zinedine Zidane’s tenure, the reigning European champions squeaked past Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Notching two away goals at the Allianz Arena placed Real in a great position to knockout the tournament favourites, and stylistically, suggested the hosts would receive opportunities to break on the counter.  With Gareth Bale unavailable due to injury, Zidane altered his side’s shape to a 4-3-1-2 with Isco floating behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Zidane’s tactical tweak was possibly intended to ensure Real dominate the midfield zone, whilst providing space for the full-backs to push forward to provide width. Real’s heroic first leg fight-back was largely responsible to the proactive positioning of Dani Carvajal and Marcelo to exploit Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery’s reluctance to track-back, and it was likely both outfits would aim to dominate wide areas.

Ironically, the hosts encountered issues in the opening stages of the match in wide areas. Bayern’s first legitimate goal-scoring chance involved David Alaba overlapping Ribery in half space to pick out Thiago, but Marcelo blocked the Spaniard’s shot, while Robben smashed the rebound into the side-netting.

Robben also made similar moves into half space to receive passes from Philip Lahm, but Bayern’s productivity in wide areas – specifically Alaba’s crosses – was underwhelming. The away side equally received space in the channels to break in transition, but the likes of Ribery, Robben and Lewandowski failed to launch these swift transitional moves.

But where Bayern easily found space behind the Real full-backs in the channels, the hosts’ full-backs still surged forward behind Ribery and Robben. The other issue Bayern encountered was Xabi Alonso’s immobility ahead of the back four – he played extremely poor passes, was dispossessed when pressure was applied, and easily overrun in midfield – and Real breaking into space behind the full-backs.

Carvajal delivered a cross into the box that Manuel Neuer pushed into the path of Sergio Ramos, but the Spaniard’s effort was cleared off the line. Ronaldo also wasted a chance when he broke into a breakaway down the right channel, and also spurned an opportunity that stemmed from a brilliant solo Marcelo run.

Nevertheless, what proved to be an extremely open match in the first half swiftly changed as Bayern took ascendancy by retaining possession for extensive periods, whilst persisting with creating overloads in wide areas. Kroos and Modric’s protection decreased as the match wore on, thus leaving Carvajal and Marcelo unable to cope with Bayern’s wide threat.

Alaba and Ribery combined down the left with the former charging into half-space to create Robben’s chance that was cleared off the line. While Robben subsequently attacked the aforementioned space to earn a penalty that was converted by Lewandowski. Lahm and Robben continuously overloaded Marcelo with the latter lofting balls to the far post and attempting to clip forward passes over the Real defence, as Vidal, Alaba and Ribery spurned chances in the box.

Zidane, however, deserves credit for sacrificing Benzema for youngster Marco Asensio, and eventually Isco for Lucas Vazquez as Real reverted to a 4-1-4-1 to ensure there was proper protection for the full-backs. Real remained deep out of possession but with ensured structure, thus enabling Carvajal to lead a 3v2 counter-attack which should’ve resulted in a goal.

The general pattern of the match altered in the latter stages with Bayern’s sole chances stemming from Robben attempting to clip balls from the left over the defence, whereas Real began to locate Ronaldo in the box. The Portuguese forward struggled throughout the match, but similar to Real’s first leg triumph, Ronaldo eventually isolated Lahm to level the score-line.

Coincidentally, Thomas Muller’s introduction pushed Thiago deeper alongside Alonso, thus providing Lewandowski support around the box.

Bayern fortuitously regained the lead via a ball over the top for Muller to chest into the path of Lewandowski, and although the Polish striker didn’t score the goal, the move highlighted the shift in the away side’s approach following Zidane’s formation alteration. Robben also attempted a pass over the top for Muller in half-space to tee up Vidal but the Chilean’s shot was blocked.

Ultimately, Vidal’s harsh dismissal drastically shifted the pattern of the match. Ancelotti turned to Joshua Kimmich for Lewandowski, which pushed Muller upfront and the young German alongside Thiago in midfield. Bayern were now heavily reliant on Robben’s counter-attacking threat from the right, whereas Marcelo’s running also proved crucial.

Ronaldo began to locate pockets of space in the final third to receive possession, and although his final two goals were offside, it equally highlighted the Real talisman’s evolution into a classic goal-poacher. Mistakes from the match officials will continue to dominate headlines, but in pivotal moments throughout the tie, Ronaldo’s ability to adopt dangerous positions was the decisive factor.

In a tie heavily dominated in wide areas, where Bayern were deprived a fully-fit Lewandowski, Real could rely on arguably the best no.9 in the sport. Albeit Bayern’s potential second half fight-back, Real were worthy winners, and Zidane deserves credit for making significant alterations over both legs to ensure Real preserved their status as Europe’s dominant club.

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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Manchester City 1-3 Bayern Munich


Bayern Munich decimated Manchester City at the Ethiad Stadium.


Pep Guardiola made one change to the side that defeated Wolfsburg this weekend. Toni Kroos returned to partner Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield, while Thomas Muller led the line in Bayern’s 4-1-4-1. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery kept their spots on the flanks, while Phillip Lahm started as the sole holding midfielder.

Manuel Pellegrini made four changes to his starting eleven that fell to Aston Villa on Saturday. Edin Dzeko led the line in Pellegrini’s 4-2-3-1, ahead of Sergio Aguero, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri. Gael Clichy and Micah Richards returned to the City back four, while Yaya Toure and Fernandinho played in the double-pivot.

Bayern produced a magnificent away performance, which saw Guardiola’s men press efficiently and dominate the midfield from the opening whistle.


It was always going to be interesting to see how City coped with Bayern’s pressure. Guardiola’s men pegged City into their third of the pitch – getting numbers around the ball carrier, thus forcing Pellegrini’s men to concede possession. Frankly this pressure led to Bayern’s dominance, as City was unable to sustain possession for the entirety of the first half.


It all started with Robben and Ribery closing down the City fullbacks – Muller charged down the centre backs, Bayern’s fullbacks pressed City’s wingers, while the European champions had a distinct numerical advantage in midfield. Bayern repetitively won the ball in City’s third which led to the European champions dominance for majority of the match.


City without the ball

With Bayern maintaining a large portion of possession, City’s aim to maintain a solid shape in midfield was logical. City dropped into a narrow 4-4-2 when Bayern was in possession and there were many factors in their shape that led to Bayern’s superiority.

First off the duo of Navas and Richards were unable to cope with Alaba and Ribery’s attacking threat. The Frenchman constantly got the better of the Manchester City fullback, and Navas struggled to track Alaba, who was persistent on surging forward. The Bayern duo’s persistence to get forward led to Ribery’s opener, as Alaba’s overlapping run confused Navas and Richards, thus leading to Ribery cutting inside and unleashing a powerful shot from distance that slipped past Joe Hart at the near post.


Yet, on the opposite side, Nasri played narrow attempting to maintain a compact shape, but this urged Guardiola’s men to penetrate on the right flank. Rafinha constantly scampered down the right side on several occasions attacking space and aiming to create overloads with Robben. Schweinsteiger also ventured over to the right side when Nasri protected Clichy to help Bayern overload the right flank. Clichy was an isolated figure at left back, and Guardiola instructed his men to penetrate the space available – and to no surprise, Bayern’s goals in the second half came down that flank.


City’s shape without the ball was questionable – as Guardiola instructed his men to penetrate wide areas.

Bayern dominate midfield

Another key element in City’s shape was their numerical disadvantage in midfield. The Bayern trio of Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm and Kroos dominated Fernandinho and Yaya Toure for large portions of the match. Also, the intelligent movement of Robben, Ribery and Muller into central areas presented Bayern with several passing options in midfield.

More so, Pellegrini’s idea to play two strikers was logical – due to Dzeko’s height and ability to hold up the ball, while Aguero’s pace to run behind defenders – but it allowed Guardiola’s men to dictate possession. Aguero wasn’t instructed to press Lahm – who was often the spare man in midfield – and the German international was allowed to control the tempo of the match.


Each member of Bayern’s midfield trio had a pass completion rate over 90%, but it was Kroos who shined brightest. Kroos possesses a wonderful gift of finding pockets of space in midfield to receive the ball – frankly there aren’t many in the world better than him at doing this.

And despite being pressed by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, the German midfielder still managed to stamp his authority on the match – specifically in the final third. But despite Kroos’ positive impact going forward, he played a key role in Bayern’s high-press – relentlessly working hard to win the ball in City’s third. Kroos cleverly dispossessed Fernandinho in City’s third and played in Robben, who danced past Nemanja Nastasic and beat Hart at the near post.


Furthermore, City’s shape without the ball allowed Bayern’s midfield to dictate the tempo of the match, as the numerical advantage in midfield allowed Guardiola’s trio to thrive.


However, the most interesting talking point pre-match was the role of Muller. The German midfielder rarely receives the plaudits he deserves, but once again he performed exceptionally on a monumental European night.

Muller closed down defenders efficiently and ran the channels superbly, aiming to find cracks in City’s high line – but his ability to win 50/50 challenges from direct balls was pivotal. Despite Bayern’s constant passing in central areas, the Bavarian’s did mix up their play, spraying a few long balls towards goal that Muller nodded down to his teammates.

And Bayern’s winner stemmed off a similar play. Muller drifted to the right flank and made a run behind Clichy – who was caught ball-watching – controlling a well-weighed Dante long ball, and his second touch was magnificent, which guided the German past Hart to tap the ball into the net. Muller’s movement in the second half was great – he constantly rotated with both wide men, taking up their positions when they drifted centrally, and the City back line was unable to cope.


Muller produced a mature performance as the lone striker – he allowed his teammates to get into better positions by linking play, provided them with forward passing options, his energy and will to close down defenders was vital, and he scored a great goal that highlighted his wonderful movement and tactical intelligence.

Second half

Bayern continued to flex their muscle and out pass City in the second half and it was surprising to see Pellegrini stick with Dzeko and Aguero upfront. It was strange considering he had James Milner – a hardworking utility player – on the bench, while Javi Garcia was also available to add numbers in midfield. But Pellegrini stuck with his shape, and replaced Dzeko with Alvaro Negredo.

Aguero began to stick closer to Lahm, but as the game wore on, the Argentine tired. David Silva and Milner then replaced Aguero and Nasri – and life was restored in the match when Jerome Boateng took down Yaya Toure who was clear on goal, thus resulting in a red card. City’s shift to a 4-2-3-1 did mount a positive end to the match – Negredo scored a well-taken goal as Bayern failed to press efficiently when they lost the ball, Milner began to trouble Rafinha, and Silva was lively in the final third after Boateng’s sending off.

Image editor, Michael Cox makes a great point on Bayern’s performance in the final 15 minutes of the match. Guardiola’s men began to tire, resulting in a decline in their pressing. Like the game at the Emirates in 2010 – when Guardiola was Barcelona manager – Arsene Wenger’s substitutions were pivotal to their monumental win, as Barcelona’s energy levels dipped after pressing for majority of the match.

This, along with Bayern’s tie against Freiburg – earlier this year – are examples of Guardiola sides fading after pressing for large portions of the match, leaving them likely to concede in in the final quarter of matches. It’s an issue the Spaniard will need to sort out, as Heynckes was able to find a balance between pressing and an organized shape – whether he decides to do so will be pivotal in the latter stages of this competition.

Bayern continued to dominate for majority of the second half, yet Pellegrini’s changes did harm the European champions in the final minutes of the match.


Bayern Munich blitzed City for majority of the match, yet Pellegrini’s approach needs to be questioned.

Pellegrini’s decision to play with two strikers wasn’t absurd, but his inability to alter the problematic issue was irrational. The Chilean failed to change his sides shape or add numbers in midfield – as Bayern’s midfield and constant pressing, pegged City in their third for large portions of the match. 

“We pressured them well when we weren’t in possession and thus forced City to play long balls, which we were able to win. We moved the ball around well. Ever since Philipp Lahm started playing further up the pitch, we have started to create more chances,” Guardiola said. 

“We now need to show the same presence and dominance in the return game, but until then we won’t stop working hard and trying to improve,” he said. 

Guardiola’s men were superb on the night, and we’re beginning to see his philosophy reap rewards, as they produced one of the better European away performances we’ve seen in sometime.

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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Bundesliga Matchday 1 Recap: Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Successful But a Work in Progress


It was refreshing to see Pep Guardiola smiling in his Bundesliga debut, after a 15-month hiatus from the touchline. The Spaniard was filled with hand gestures, confidence and a load of emotion, as he earned his first competitive win as Bayern manager.

Guardiola’s starting line up contained 10 players that started in last season’s Champions League final, with Toni Kroos being the only exception as he was unavailable due to injury. It’s normal to see Guardiola sticking with the same crop of players that were successful last season, as a major upheaval would only cause further set back for the Spaniard. The Bavarians kicked of the season in fine fashion, taking a two-goal lead in the opening 16 minutes.

But all the Guardiola critics proclaiming that the Spaniard’s side is no different to Heynckes’ treble winners would be slightly incorrect. Guardiola’s 4-1-4-1 has been interesting to assess, but it’s slowly coming to fruition.  Robben and Ribery have continued to dazzle on the flanks, and are eager to take players on – but they’ve also been encouraged to overload flanks to isolate their opposing fullbacks.

Kroos continues to play a pivotal role in the side, often drifting from flank to flank to link play with the wide men.  What’s special about Kroos, besides his reliable passing in the final third, is his ability to find space to receive the ball, providing another passing option when teams press Bastian Schweinsteiger. Muller also displayed improvement as the right shuttler, often getting into key areas in the final third to link play. Like Mario Mandzukic, Muller has struggled to get involved in matches, and has often looked confused with his positioning, but there was a significant improvement against Monchengladbach.

However, this was far from a blowout, and Lucien Favre’s men caused the Bavarian’s problems throughout the match.  Max Kruse made constant runs into the channels to receive long balls and retain possession – and in the 30th minute, Kruse also forced Manuel Neuer into making a wonderful save.

As influential as Kruse was, Patrick Herrmann was Favre’s key man, as Gladbach was determined to find the German winger on the right flank. Of the few issues that Bayern suffered, one has been the positioning of their fullbacks. With the Bavarians aiming to press higher up the pitch, Phillip Lahm and David Alaba left a significant amount of space free behind them, which Favre’s men were keen on exposing. Juan Arango and Herrmann constantly got behind the Bayern fullbacks, creating chances for Kruse.

One of the major changes Guardiola has made was the removal of the double pivot, thus playing with one holder in Schweinsteiger. The Bavarians encountered the same issue in the German Super Cup, and once again they were caught on the break numerous times. Favre’s men were unable to take their chances, saving Bayern from conceding more goals and possibly dropping points.

Guardiola’s men put the game out of reach in the 69th minute, when Alvaro Dominguez conceded two penalties in the span of two minutes, allowing Alaba to convert his shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Bayern start their title defence with three points, but Guardiola’s system will take a few more weeks to flourish – until then, it’ll be fascinating to see how the Bavarians evolve under their new manager.

Aubameyang! Aubameyang! Aubameyang! (Augsburg 0-4 Borussia Dortmund)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s life in Germany kicked off in fine fashion, as he became the sixth player in Bundesliga history to score a hat trick on his debut. Borussia Dortmund is out to make a statement this season and challenge for domestic honours, and Augsburg was their first victim, as they cruised to a 4-0 victory. Robert Lewandowski added the fourth goal with a thunderous penalty kick.

“I pointed out to my team that our intensity would have to be the same as all other matches before, the Supercup included,” Klopp said.

“Our opponents were extremely strong but in the second half we won the ball more and found more space. We scored great goals and finished the game with confidence,” he added.

One area that Klopp will look to address is getting the best out of Ilkay Gundogan, who has played in the no.10 role and has failed to impress. But Aubameyang was the main man on the night displaying his aerial prowess, quality finishing, and ability to get behind the defence with his pace.

Although Jurgen Klopp sold Mario Gotze to the Bavarians, the German manager looks to have assembled a side that’s potentially better then last season, with the inclusion of Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Sam’s pace guides Leverkusen past Freiburg (Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 SC Freiburg)

Heung Min Son marked his Leverkusen debut with the match winner as Sami Hyypiä’s men easily dispatched of Freiburg at the BayArena. Last season’s Golden boot winner Stefan Kießling opened the scoring, but Mike Hanke leveled the match in the 40th minute, courtesy of a Jonathan Schmid assist.

However, Leverkusen’s wide men had the biggest impact on the match, after both sides found the back of the net in a dull first half. Sidney Sam used his pace to make identical runs behind the Freiburg backline to assist Son’s winner and score Leverkusen’s third goal.

Christian Streich’s men pushed for an equalizer but they struggled to create any opportunities in the final third. Frankly, most of their work came through Hanke, who was constantly moving across the final third linking play, but the creativity and final ball was lacking.

6-goal thriller at the Veltins-Arena (Schalke 3-3 Hamburg)

Adam Szalai’s 72nd minute equalizer saved Jens Keller’s men from a disappointing opening day loss at the Veltins Arena. Klass-Jan Huntelaar once again caused the Hamburg backline trouble, scoring two goals, making it five in two games.

But Schalke had other problems to deal with, starting with the 22nd minute departure of Julian Draxler, who limped off the pitch. Prior to his injury, Draxler was Schalke’s main attacking threat in the final third – spreading incisive passes in key areas, and assisting Huntelaar’s first goal.

Yet, once he departed, Thorsten Fink’s men began to assert their dominance, exposing Schalke’s weakness in wide areas and aerial duels. Maximillian Beister got behind the Schalke defence on numerous occasions with his direct runs, and his 24th minute header gave Hamburg the lead. Meanwhile, Lars Sobiech out jumped Joel Matip in the second half to retake the lead, after Huntelaar leveled the game before half time. Matip and Benedikt Höwedes struggled in the air, and were unable to cope with Jacques Zoua’s intelligent movement, as they were constantly dragged out of position.

Fink decided to switch to a 4-3-3 midway through the second half to preserve their lead, but it allowed youngsters Christian Clemens, Leon Goretzka and substitute Adam Szalai to stamp their authority on the match. They began to find gaps in the Hamburg midfield and looked threatening in the final third. More so, it was Clemens’ shot that Adler spilled and Szalai tapped in the rebound.

We start by conceding three goals at home. That’s way too many. We weren’t in the game at all in the first half, but we did a lot right in the second half,” Keller said.

Schalke fell behind twice, but found the courage to fight back, despite struggling for large portions of the match. Fink’s men were tactically superb, but the Hamburg manager’s decision to preserve their lead, led to their downfall, as the Royal Blues improved in the second half.

Other Results: Hannover 2-0 Wolfsburg, Braunschweig 0-1 Bremen, Hertha 6-1 Frankfurt, Hoffenheim 2-2 Nürnberg, Mainz 3-3 Stuttgart

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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Published Work


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2 Guys and a MIKE – Weekly Roundup Podcast May 28th

Courtesy of Steindy

Courtesy of Steindy

This week on 2 Guys and a Mike, Mike the Mod and Tyrrell Meertins breakdown the Champions League final, Falcao’s transfer dilemma with AS Monaco and they shed some light on Neymar’s move to Barcelona.




Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Podcasts


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2 Guys and a MIKE – Champions League Podcast May 2nd

Tyrrell Meertins and Hugo V recap the second leg ties that took place in the Champions League this week. They discuss whether Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Real Madrid has been successful, why Bayern Munich need Pep Guardiola and breakdown whether German football is on the rise!


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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Podcasts


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Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich

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.

Set Pieces

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.

Second half

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.

Three Stars

1.    Bastian Schweinsteiger

2.    Javi Martinez

3.    Franck Ribery

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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Match Recaps


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Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Bayern Munich

Phillip Wollscheid’s own goal, three minutes from fulltime handed Bayern Munich a Bundesliga record 12th away win this season – leaving the Bavarians six points away from securing the league title.

Bayern vs leverkusenLeverkusen 1st half vs bayern

Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski lined their side up in a 4-3-3. Gonzalo Castro, Stefan Kießling and Andre Schurrle played upfront, while Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes and Stefan Reinartz made up the midfield. Phillip Wollschied and Sebastian Boenisch returned to the starting lineup replacing Michal Kadlec and Manuel Friedrich.

Jupp Heynckes made a few changes to his traditional 4-2-3-1, and it started with Mario Gomez leading the line. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Xherdan Shaqiri played behind the German striker, while Luiz Gustavo and Javi Martinez protected the back four. Rafinha and Jerome Boateng were also in the lineup replacing Daniel Van Buyten and Phillip Lahm.

Considering the gap between the sides going into the match was 21 points, there was no surprise that the atmosphere was quite subdued. It was a game of two halves that saw the Bavarians dominate the first and Leverkusen grow into the second.


Bastian Schweinsteiger played in an advanced role behind Gomez, while Gustavo and Martinez played in a double pivot. Toni Kroos’ was unavailable due to a knee injury, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to see him play behind Gomez. Schweinsteiger was key in the first half, and one of many reasons why Bayern were dominant.

Schweinsteiger dropped deep into the midfield, as Kroos’ normally does and he linked play with the wide men and Gomez. His presence also opened up another passing option and it helped Heynckes’ side advance up the pitch. The German international ran the channels, and it opened up space for Shaqiri and Robben to drift into.

Bayern Dominance

Leverkusen dropped into a 4-5-1 when they didn’t have the ball and opted to press Gustavo and Martinez. This is what made Schweinsteiger so vital, he dropped deeper and launched several balls across the pitch.

Another key element in Bayern’s dominance was their ability to keep their shape and quickly get numbers behind the ball. Leverkusen often attacked on the break in the first half, and they conceded possession easily, allowing Bayern to counter with pace. Balls were usually sprung out to the right, so Robben and Rafinha could exploit the empty space. Ultimately, this led to the first goal as this time the counter was on the left hand side, in which Shaqiri played a ball to Gomez. Gomez went on a fantastic run from half beating two defenders and the German international calmly slotted his shot past Bernd Leno. The goal forced Leverkusen to move away from their cautious approach, and they began to press Dante, but the Brazilian did a great job in playing short incisive passes in between them.

Shaqiri’s involvement in the first half was also instrumental to Bayern’s stellar half. The Swiss international would often drift into central positions and in between the lines to pick up the ball. This allowed Alaba to make surging runs forward that Leverkusen struggled to deal with. For everything that went right for Heynckes’ men in the first half, it was a surprise to see Bayern only lead by a goal.

Hyypia-Lewandowski changes

Bayer leverkysen second half

Leverkusen made a half-time change taking off the ineffective Andre Schurrle, and bringing on Sidney Sam. Sam played on the right flank and Castro drifted to the left.

With 30 minutes remaining in the game, the duo made their final change by bringing on Jens Heleger in place of Stefan Reinartz.

Leverkusen began playing the ball out to Sam, and he took Alaba on 1v1 every single time. Not only did he stretch the pitch, but he provided a direct approach that Leverkusen lacked in the first half. They were far too narrow, and it made easier for Bayern’s defenders to contain them.

Hegler moving to the left hand side, pushed Castro into the midfield. Heleger didn’t make the same impact as Sam did, but he did help stretch the Bayern backline. There was more space for the midfield three to play in, and the presence of two wide men pegged Alaba and Rafinha back.

Martinez-Gustavo pairing

With Kroos’ unavailable, Martinez and Gustavo started in the two holding roles for the second straight game. On paper it looks like a very good combination, but they had a second consecutive mediocre outing. To be fair Heynckes’ hasn’t played the two together throughout the season, but the duo has started in both Champions League losses for Bayern this season.

Both men are great passers on the ball, that have the ability to destroy plays. The problem is that they have difficulties slowing down the tempo/dictating the game. When Leverkusen pushed on in the second half, they found themselves sitting deeper, but when they won possession they were unable to settle. With Bayern nearly dropping points with both men on the field, this might leave Heynckes’ concerned with the fitness levels of Kroos and Schweinsteiger going into the final stages of the Champions League.

Second Half

Hyypia and Lewandowski’s half-time changes improved Leverkusen’s performance in the second half. The introduction of direct wide player’s kept the Bayern fullbacks cautious when going forward, and mounted pressure on Bayern as they sat deeper as the half continued.

With Gustavo and Martinez failing to slow down the tempo of the match, Bayern continuously broke on the counter, but they didn’t have enough men pushing forward. This resulted in Gomez being substituted for a more mobile Claudio Pizzaro. Heynckes’ also brought on Daniel Van Buyten and Anatoliy Tymoschuk for Gustavo and Robben. Bayern was content with a 1-0 victory, but Leverkusen’s wingers continued to penetrate and Bayern conceded from a corner kick.


In terms of goals, this game had the same pattern to the fixture between these sides earlier this season. The only difference was in the first meeting, Bayern dominated possession and created several chances.

Leverkusen handed Bayern their only defeat in the league, in which Mandzukic equalized and Sam’s header ricocheted off Gustavo’s face into the net. Mandzukic’s goal came in the 77th minute and the winner came 10 minutes later.

This match saw Rolfes’ equalize in the 75th minute and Schweinsteiger’s freekick deflected off of Sebastian Boesnisch in the 87th minute as well. It also saw Heleger and Sam introduced as subs, in which they made a significant impact.

Coincidence? Possibly, but this has been the pattern in these tight affairs between these sides this season.


This was a game of two halves – Bayern dominated the first half, but they took their foot off the gas, and Leverkusen’s changes allowed them to grow into the game.

Leverkusen lose two consecutive games in the league for the first time this season, but with the league out of reach, Hyypia and Lewandowski will focus on securing their Champions League football next season.

Despite not being at their best, Bayern was able to claim their 22nd victory this season. The Bavarians currently sit 20 points ahead of second place Dortmund and need six points to claim their 22nd Bundesliga title.

With the league wrapped up, all eyes will be turned to their monumental European clash against Juventus in a few weeks.

Three Stars

1.    Dante

2.    Simon Rolfe

3.    Mario Gomez


Tyrrell Meertins

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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Match Recaps


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