analysis | 2015-05-07
And then... Messi
The Argentinian trumps Guardiola's tactics
On Wednesday, May 6, FC Barcelona won 3-0 against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.
Luis Enrique maintained his traditional starting XI. Ter Stegen, the goalkeeper for the Champions League, was behind Alves, Piqué, Mascherano and Alba. Midfield is formed by Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic and up front, Neymar, Suárez and Messi were the forwards.
Pep Guardiola used Neuer between the posts, with Bernat, Boateng, Benatia and Rafinha as defenders. Xabi Alonso, Lahm, Thiago and Schweinsteiger formed the midfield behind the pair of Muller-Lewandowski.
First Pep Guardiola organized his team in 3-4-1-2, with Rafinha playing behind Bernat.
This enabled Bayern to be positioned very high and to play one against one in all zones of the pitch. Barcelona could not build from the back since all players were covered.
The solution adopted by the Blaugranas was the excellent long-pass range of their goalkeeper ter Stegen. Since building from the back was too risky, he looked for the heads of the three forwards. There were only three defenders against them, playing just behind the halfway line. Therefore, in case the defenders lost the aerial duel Neuer would be facing Messi, Neymar or Suárez.
After 20 minutes and several dangerous situations, Guardiola decided to reorganize his team and moved to 4-3-1-2. Bernat moved to left fullback and Rafinha changed to right full back. Thiago moved from the right flank to the left next to Xabi Alonso. Lahm completed the triangle.
Therefore the Germans could not play one against one when Barça built from the back, but at least they had one spare man against the three forwards. The most important thing for them was to avoid Busquets from touching the ball, and they succeeded.
But Luis Enrique’s team was also positioned very high up the pitch when Bayern tried to build from the back. Rakitic, Busquets and Alves did a very good job and recovered several balls in dangerous zones.
Bayern used the same solution as Barça: they sent long balls to their forwards. They looked for Lewandowski, who was positioned in the area of Mascherano and Alba, both shorter than him.
That took Mascherano out of his zone, meaning Piqué had to cover him. This resulted in free space inside the penalty box that could be attacked, Lewandowski almost scoring in one of these situations.
Both teams had difficulties to calm the game down and hold the ball for long passing sequences. Space was scarce and the struggle in midfield was intense.
Bayern did find some space behind Busquets, who was pressing very high. But the defense managed to solve this issue.
When the Germans were able to position themselves in Barça’s half, they put almost all of their players on the right side. Barça was forced to move there, and then the ball was passed to Bernat, who was alone on the left flank. Despite the time and space he was given, he did not manage to create very dangerous situations for his team, in part because of Dani Alves’ great work.
In addition to that, Bernat’s position was a risk. He left the other defenders alone against the three beasts, and on several occasions when Barça recovered the ball, the counterattacks were dangerous.
Half time was reached with the result being the same as it was when the game started, mainly because Neuer had saved two clear opportunities against Suárez and Alves. On the other end of the pitch, Bayern had not managed a single shot on target.
Second half was very similar to the first one, with no changes from the two coaches.
But in the 76th minute, the pressing got a result for Barcelona.
Rakitic and Alves pressed Bernat on the flank and recovered the ball. Boateng and Alonso had to quickly cover Alves, who managed to pass the ball to Messi. He had been given space and would not waste it. 1-0 for Barcelona.
Guardiola immediately substituted Muller with Götze.
But only four minutes later, Bernat was again involved in a goal for Barcelona.
First Busquets broke the midfield line with a pass to Rakitic who was behind it.
Then Rakitic saw that Bernat was in front of Messi instead of being behind him. He passed him the ball in that space and Messi only had to eliminate Boateng and score. He did so with a movement that will forever remain in the history of the Champions League.
The last 10 minutes were marked by substitutions; Xavi, Rafinha and Bartra entered the pitch for Rakitic, Iniesta and Mascherano.
And at the end of extra time, with lots of German players trying to level the score, or at least reduce the deficit, a last counterattack where Suárez won the ball and Messi assisted Neymar meant the final score was 3-0.
A magnificent result for FC Barcelona, who knew how to be patient and kept on playing the way they had decided to. The Champions League final is a step closer!
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