Barcelona – Bayern Munich: Barcelona Humiliated By Relentless Bayern (2-8)
Bayern Munich entered the game with an aggressive style of play, and their high defensive line looked like it might be exploitable early on. Once Bayern got into their pressing game though, they steamrolled Barcelona, who gave up easy turnovers in their own half. Barcelona’s defensive play was similarly shambolic, allowing Bayern to rip through them with strong movement between the lines and switches of play. The game was finished as a contest after half an hour, but Bayern were relentless, and ran up the scoreline in the second half.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Barcelona and Bayern Munich both won their Champions League Round of Sixteen second leg ties with convincing scorelines, however the performances in these games contrasted somewhat. Barcelona’s victory against Napoli was largely a result of being more clinical with their chances, thanks to the likes of Lionel Messi.
Meanwhile, Bayern built on their already impressive first leg performance against Chelsea to further pile on the misery for Frank Lampard’s side. Chelsea were dismantled 4-1, with Robert Lewandowski adding another two goals to his total for the season.
Quique Setién seemingly opted for midfield stability in a 4-4-2 system with his starting eleven, as Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong and Arturo Vidal started in a midfield four with Sergio Busquets. Up front, Lionel Messi was partnered by Luis Suárez. The defense was also a familiar one, as Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet were the central defensive duo, flanked by fullbacks Nélson Semedo and Jordi Alba.
For Bayern, Joshua Kimmich once again started at right back rather than the midfield role he has occupied for much of the season. Leon Goretzka therefore partnered Thiago in central midfield in their usual 4-2-3-1 shape. Further ahead, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller and Ivan Perišić were the attacking midfield trio behind Lewandowski.
Barcelona’s flat 4-4-2 shape in possession.
Fast start and false hope for Barcelona
From the first whistle, the game started with a fast tempo, and it was not long before the first goals were scored. In the fourth minute, Bayern opened the scoring after a counterattack down the left side, where they were able to exploit a huge amount of space behind Semedo.
Just a few minutes later, Barcelona equalized. Alba was able to get in behind down the left side for Barcelona and his attempted low cross towards Suárez was intercepted by David Alaba, who quite spectacularly sliced the ball into his own net while attempting to clear the ball.
The source of the goal was actually giving Barcelona some hope early on. Namely, there seemed to be promising possibilities that could arise from through balls and passes over the top of Bayern’s defensive line.
Flick’s team was extremely compact in all directions and used a very high defensive line, looking to push Barcelona back into their own half. Inevitably, there were some moments where Barcelona were able to find a moment on the ball without sufficient pressure from a Bayern player, allowing the Barcelona players to attempt to play into depth.
Barcelona’s struggles playing from the back
These possibilities for Barcelona soon faded though, as they became increasingly embroiled into situations playing out from the back that they were not able to solve. Once Bayern got their man-to-man pressing locked in, they were able to force errors from Setién’s side.
Barcelona attempted to play out in their standard fashion, with center-backs split either side of Marc-André ter Stegen and Busquets in the number six space. The fullbacks took up the width, while Roberto and De Jong started from either halfspace. If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. Vidal meanwhile pushed up a bit higher to get close to Messi and Suárez.
It was difficult for ter Stegen to play in the closest players, due to the intense pressing from Bayern, so instead the idea seemed to be to play chip passes behind the Bayern midfield for the likes of Messi and Suárez dropping in the center circle. Unfortunately, ter Stegenhad probably one of his worst ever matches in terms of the accuracy of his distribution, and Bayern were able to make several regains in Barcelona’s half.
Bayern’s attack rips through Barcelona
Flick’s side have already shown themselves to have one of the best attacks in Europe this season; this was once again evident here. They were helped by an extremely ineffective Barcelona defensive scheme which allowed Bayern to move the ball into dangerous positions almost at will.
Thiago was usually the deepest Bayern midfielder, with Goreztka playing a line higher. Kimmich and Davies provided the width from fullback, while the front four had freedom to move into central areas and interchange positions.
Common buildup pattern for Bayern.
• Thiago drops between Boateng and Alaba, Davies pushes up, Kimmich stays a bit further back.
• Goretzka keeps middle occupied.
• Lots of rotation up front; Davies takes care of the left outside channel, rest is more flexible.#BarcaBayern pic.twitter.com/ETcvRhIggU
— Between The Posts (@BetweenThePosts) August 14, 2020
The movement of these players between the lines was as impressive as it has been all season. The interchange of positions and the strong sense of timing the players have when moving into position to receive the ball makes them extremely difficult to defend against.
At the same time, the efforts of Busquets and De Jong to control the space between the lines was weak. They often found themselves both pushed out of the number six space, poorly staggered and therefore able to be outplayed by a single pass.
The roles of Roberto and Vidal were also poorly implemented. They usually fell slightly lower than Busquets and De Jong, but the wide midfielders were neither in position to track their opposing fullback, nor able to retain compactness and offer a strong defensive connection to the central midfielders. Overall, the Barcelona midfield showed how not to execute a zonal 4-4-2 defensive scheme, with poor attempts at pressuring and covering throughout the game.
Aside from cutting through central areas, Bayern were also able to make good use of the wings and switched the play effectively. Many switches went out to the left, where Davies was an obvious threat.
When crosses came into the box, Bayern always looked dangerous. Barcelona were unable to cope with the movement of the likes of Müller and Lewandowski, often joined by Goretzka who made runs from his deep role to join attacks as they developed.
Bayern also counterpressed After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. very well in these situations and picked up the second balls around Barcelona’s box. Barcelona were not only outplayed tactically, but also seemed unable to compete physically, as Bayern were sharp in the duels around Barcelona’s box.
Barcelona helpless, Bayern merciless
The issues already mentioned led to Bayern racking up three goals in the space of ten minutes in the first half, putting them 4-1 up after just over thirty minutes had been played. From this point on, there was little hope of a Barcelona comeback.
Even when Suárez danced past Jérôme Boateng and slotted past Manuel Neuer to drag it back to 4-2, the prospect of Barcelona being competitive in this game was never a serious one. Bayern were simply leagues ahead in every aspect.
Setién looked on helplessly as Bayern continued to dominate. Just after the hour mark, Davies embarrassed Semedo in a one-versus-one duel near the touchline before setting up Kimmich to add a fifth goal.
The Barcelona manager made just two changes despite what was unfolding in front of him. After the break, he had introduced Antoine Griezmann at right midfield instead of Roberto. Later, Busquets was replaced by Ansu Fati who took up the left midfield position while Vidal moved into the center.
Bayern continued to rack up shots and chances. They finished with 26 shots, which is a huge number in every match, let alone in a Champions League quarter-final. To add insult to injury to an already well beaten Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho was introduced for the final fifteen minutes and would go on to assist one goal and score the last two as Barcelona finished the game with a humiliating 8-2 defeat.
Barcelona as a club were already fairly unstable coming into this and can now be described as being in turmoil. It seems almost certain that Setién will leave, and perhaps some players will too. It is difficult to know where Barcelona will be when the first day of the new season rolls around. One thing that is certain is that massive structural change is needed – at all levels of the club.
Bayern have been arguably the most impressive team in Europe this season, and probably already one of the best teams seen in the last five years or so. Their attacking movement in particular is spellbinding at times, and their combination of speed and timing makes them absolutely lethal. Add to that the incredible buildup prowess provided by the likes of Alaba and Thiago in the deeper positions, and there is an incredible unit to admire. One interesting aspect looking forward to the next game is their high defensive line. Even in the dysfunctional state, Barcelona were almost able to undo Bayern with passes in behind the defense, and it will be interesting to see if a better prepared and coached team may be able to exploit this aspect in future, if Bayern do indeed continue to utilize this strategy.
Use the arrows to scroll through all available match plots. Click to enlarge.
Check the match plots page for plots of other matches.