Bayern Munich 4-2 Juventus - A Tactical Analysis

An enthralling draw between Bayern Munich and Juventus in Turin meant that everything was still to play for ahead of the second leg of the tie, though with two away goals in their favour and home advantage still to come, the German side definitely held the stronger position. They had also controlled the majority of the first game with real mastery and, despite Juventus coming to life after the hour mark, Pep Guardiola would’ve rightly remained confident of their progression even after letting a two-goal lead slip out of their hands.

Each team made three personnel changes to their starting line-up from the first game, although Bayern’s usually fluid 4-1-4-1 shape wasn’t really affected by them too much. Mehdi Benatia came into the centre of defence to partner Joshua Kimmich, while Xabi Alonso replaced Thiago and played as the deepest midfielder just ahead of the backline – leading to Arturo Vidal having a more advanced role. The other player brought into the eleven was Franck Ribéry, the Frenchman starting on the left and Douglas Costa being moved over to the right as a result.

Juventus' typical shape off the ball was a 5-4-1, and the compactness (both vertically and horizontally) which they held within it caused great problems for Bayern.

Juventus' typical shape off the ball was a 5-4-1, and the compactness (both vertically and horizontally) which they held within it caused great problems for Bayern.

Juventus’ system, meanwhile, had more significant adjustments made to it by Max Allegri. Having played a quite distinctive 4-4-2 throughout their home game, here they shaped up in a much more flexible manner. With the ball they played in a 4-5-1, without it a 5-4-1 for the most part, and they transitioned between the two with ease; Alex Sandro’s constantly changing role on the left flank being the key to it. Alongside Sandro, Hernanes and Álvaro Morata were the other two players brought into the team.

As well as their shape change, Juventus also made a very important alteration to the passive and reactionary way that they were playing off the ball for the initial hour of the first leg. They were much more proactive in this match, pressing (in a varied 4-1-3-2 type of shape which is depicted below) Bayern high up the field, disrupting their possession game and causing lots of sloppy mistakes during the build-up phase of play. Such a thing not only helped them to come under less pressure defensively but also to have possession in more threatening positions themselves, something which gave them a very advantageous foothold to work with and build upon.

When pressing, Juventus' shape turned into something of a loose 4-1-3-2. Pogba usually moved up alongside Morata to pressure the centre-backs and Alonso, while Cuadrado (right), Khedira (middle) and Sandro (left) all pushed up in different zones of the pitch. They did this with great intensity in the early phases in particular, and managed to sustain it for quite some time.

When pressing, Juventus' shape turned into something of a loose 4-1-3-2. Pogba usually moved up alongside Morata to pressure the centre-backs and Alonso, while Cuadrado (right), Khedira (middle) and Sandro (left) all pushed up in different zones of the pitch. They did this with great intensity in the early phases in particular, and managed to sustain it for quite some time.

Even the usually infallible David Alaba was shaken by this bright showing from Juventus, and their forcing of errors culminated in an early goal following a mistake from the left-back. He panicked when chasing a lofted Sami Khedira pass towards his own goal, practically missing the ball under pressure from Stephan Lichtsteiner and allowing the Switzerland international to get between him and the onrushing goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. Lichtsteiner then managed to poke the ball laterally across with his touch, which Paul Pogba reacted to and he calmly stroked the loose ball into the empty net from the edge of the box.

After scoring in the 5th minute it would’ve been understandable if Juventus had gone back to not pressing at all and just sitting deeper again, but the aforementioned tactical set-ups of both them and Bayern was what the match was like before and for quite some period after the goal (even if the intensity of the pressing naturally dropped a little). It was a way of playing that got them back into the tie during the match in Italy, and Allegri was keen to for his team to quite literally press on and continue to cause Guardiola’s side headaches.

Bayern’s circulation issues were undoubtedly impacted by Juventus most of all, but questions could also be asked of Guardiola’s selection of players. Both Alonso and Benatia struggled to move the ball quickly enough (especially the latter) which gave their opposition plenty of time to establish their shape, and their lack of pressing resistance also made it easier for Juventus to force the pair into mistakes or unthreatening passes. Vidal’s positional play on the inside-left of the midfield was also poor at times, his distance from those two often being too short and that led to unnecessary touches that just slowed their moving of the ball down even more. Meanwhile, Thiago, Bayern’s best midfield controller and a master at dictating the game, was surprisingly only on the bench.

Vidal's spacing compared to Alonso and Benatia in Bayern's build-up was often poor, and that made it more challenging for them to build possession. They also didn't get enough players in good positions between the lines (though that was an issue which wasn't just caused by the Chilean).

Vidal's spacing compared to Alonso and Benatia in Bayern's build-up was often poor, and that made it more challenging for them to build possession. They also didn't get enough players in good positions between the lines (though that was an issue which wasn't just caused by the Chilean).

On top of that, their attempts at overloads in the centre to try and ease the progression of the ball were made quite ineffective by the high levels of compactness that Juventus were exhibiting. The midfield four of Pogba, Hernanes, Khedira and Juan Cuadrado stuck tightly together, plugging the half-spaces and making it very difficult to play through them – preventing the involvement of Alaba and Philipp Lahm from being too threatening like it was during the game in Turin. Morata also blocked passing lanes well and added yet another hurdle which Bayern found tricky to bypass.

And even when the home side did manage to break through the lines and move the ball with a bit of pace, as teams of their calibre eventually manage, Juventus held firm. By having three centre-backs (Patrice Evra, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli) in that 5-4-1 shape of theirs, one of them was almost always free to step out from the defence. That enabled them to put pressure on players receiving passes before they had time to control the ball and turn, Evra often doing this on Thomas Müller in particular, and if the closing down was unsuccessful then someone else would be in a position which enabled them to cover for the mistake.

At the same time that added security of the more packed defence also allowed Sandro and Lichtsteiner the option to step up and close down Bayern’s wingers: their width often being the outlet which Guardiola’s team uses to cut teams open. Good support and ball-orientation from Cuadrado and Pogba, the widest midfielders in the system, similarly meant they were quick to shift over and double-up on Ribéry and Costa on their respective sides.

Juventus' 5-4-1 shape meant they had enough defensive coverage to allow their centre-backs to step up and press the ball if someone was receiving between the lines; like Evra does to Müller here. 

Juventus' 5-4-1 shape meant they had enough defensive coverage to allow their centre-backs to step up and press the ball if someone was receiving between the lines; like Evra does to Müller here. 

It was a superbly synchronised defensive structure that Juventus set-up in, and amidst all that they scored a second on the counter-attack to go 2-0 up in the 28th minute. The goal was mostly about Morata’s incredible solo run from the edge of his own box, the striker evading multiple challenges before finding Cuadrado in space at the other end of the field. The Colombian then took a touch, calmly shifted the ball out of reach of Lahm’s attempted last-ditch challenge, and slotted a composed finish in at the near post.

Juventus probably spent more time pressing in Bayern’s half than they did actually on the ball there, but they still moved the ball well and counter-attacked efficiently whenever they had it. Morata’s runs into the channels were effective as ever, the Spaniard once again showing how brilliant he is as a counter-attacking striker, while Cuadrado’s electric pace and the supporting movements of Khedira and Pogba from midfield proved to be of great use in terms of exploiting space.

Morata's pace, pressing resistance and ability to run in the channels caused Bayern real problems all the time he was on the pitch, the Spaniard regularly bursting beyond the defence or getting into one-on-one situations.

Morata's pace, pressing resistance and ability to run in the channels caused Bayern real problems all the time he was on the pitch, the Spaniard regularly bursting beyond the defence or getting into one-on-one situations.

There was a lot for Juventus to be positive about, for all of the first-half and much of the second, but for Bayern it was the polar opposite to what they would’ve been hoping for. Guardiola responded to the issues they’d been having by subbing off Benatia at half-time, Juan Bernat coming on for him in a change which saw Alaba revert to the centre-back role he played in the first game. That initial switch didn’t have much of an effect at first however; Juventus continued to press at a good intensity with excellent spatial coverage, and still provided a threat on the break (mostly through Morata).

The substitution which proved to have the bigger impact for the German team was the one which happened around the hour mark – Alonso, who alongside Benatia was the other player most negatively affecting Bayern’s tempo, being brought off for Kingsley Coman. He went out to the right wing, and that led to an important reshuffle of the midfield. Vidal took over as the deepest midfielder, and Costa moved into an advanced central role, an area that he’s operated in on a few occasions this season.

With Alonso and Vidal now not getting in each other’s way, Bayern’s build-up play and circulation of the ball became smoother. Costa provided useful verticality in the middle too, helping to slowly force Juventus deeper and deeper at a time when their pressing, understandably, given the intensity of the game, had started to drop off. That was probably just as significant a factor for Bayern getting back into the match as the changes of personnel, but regardless of the reason Juventus were now very much parked around their own penalty area. And unfortunately for them, they were unable to hold out like that until the final whistle.

When Alonso went off and Juventus' pressing dropped, Vidal moved deeper and had more space to work in within midfield - and unsurprisingly his performance improved from that point onwards.

When Alonso went off and Juventus' pressing dropped, Vidal moved deeper and had more space to work in within midfield - and unsurprisingly his performance improved from that point onwards.

Bayern’s two headed goals in normal time, the first from Robert Lewandowski, the second from Müller, both ended up coming as a result of crosses (from Costa and Coman respectively) on their right side towards the far post. Juventus had defended the flanks well up until then, but the injection of Coman’s pace and the dropping of their shape meant that it was now difficult for their full-backs and wide midfielders to properly close attackers down. Their inability to find an outlet from the pressure, enhanced hugely when Morata came off in the 72nd minute (just one minute before Lewandowski pulled one back) for Mario Mandžukić, also didn’t help either.

Having equalised in the 91st minute, and seeing as they’d controlled the game for a good 25 minutes before that too, the momentum was now clearly with Bayern going into extra-time. Allegri had tried to halt the shift by bringing the dynamic pair of Roberto Pereyra and Stefano Sturaro into the midfield during normal time, on top of that Mandžukić switch, but, unlike Bayern’s subs, they had very little effect.

So Juventus continued to sit deep and were unable to break out – and Guardiola meanwhile went on to complete his hat-trick of successful substitutions when he brought Thiago off the bench for Ribéry. This saw him take over from Costa in the middle, the Brazilian going out to his more regular left-wing position again. It was a surprise that he didn’t start, let alone that he only came on this late in the game, but irrespective of that he proved to be another player who helped Bayern to rectify the issues they’d been experiencing.

Thiago's late introduction was crucial to Bayern progressing, and his mobility and passing proved to be a real asset against Juventus when they were in their deeper shape.

Thiago's late introduction was crucial to Bayern progressing, and his mobility and passing proved to be a real asset against Juventus when they were in their deeper shape.

The move was directly rewarded with a goal in the 108th minute, Thiago’s clever movement between the lines and quick combination play being demonstrated during a one-two with Müller just inside the box. His finish upon receiving the ball back was excellent, and his passionate celebration afterwards was an indicator of just how much of a relief this was to Bayern after an incredibly tough night for them. Even with some time left to go in this crazy tie it felt like the decisive moment, but the Bavarians still made sure by compiling Juventus’ misery just two minutes later through Coman; the Frenchman completing the scoring on the counter with another wonderfully executed finish.

And with that, Juventus’ Champions Leagues hopes came to an end. Losing one of Europe’s best sides at this early stage was a shame, especially after such an incredibly exciting tie, but at least they helped to provide us with a game which really lit up the first knockout round of the competition. Bayern, meanwhile, progress – and Guardiola’s search for the trophy in his final year in Munich is still very much alive and kicking.