We don’t need to wait for a draw to determine the competition for the quarter-finals in the UEFA Champions League. We will be playing Bayern Munchen after they thrashed Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate to proceed to this stage. Meanwhile, Barcelona overcame a 1-1 draw to win 3-1 and go through 4-2 on aggregate. In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Barcelona can line up to play against Bayern Munich and how Barcelona can counter Bayern Munich’s threat.
Countering Bayern Munich
Hansi Flick has made Bayern one of the best, if not the best team, in Europe. Bayern has won the double already, and are on par to win the Champions League. Bayern plays in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a double-pivot midfield and a lethal front attacking four. They line up like below:
Benjamin Pavard, Bayern’s usual right-back is out for this game due to an unfortunate injury, so Kimmich, Bayern’s positional juggernaut takes the right-back position. This means that Thiago Alcantara and Leon Goretzka take the double-pivot position. Kingsley Coman is back from injury after being out for the game against Chelsea. He should start the game but might come off later for Ivan Perisic as a sub.
Bayern builds up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but sees a shift to a 4-2-4 formation in the attacking phases higher up the pitch, with Muller moving in from attacking midfielder to the second striker. To counter this formation, Barcelona can set up in a 4-3-3 but drop back to a 5-2-3 when defending, with Busquets or De Jong dropping back to make the defence a 5 at the back. The animation below I made indicates how Barcelona can set up pressing traps and counter the opposition’s threat in this particular game, considering Bayern use the aforementioned formation:
The first thing we can see is Barcelona lining up in their normal 4-3-3 formation. But, when Bayern Munich is on the ball, Barcelona moves back to the 5-2-3 formation, where Sergio Busquets, the deepest lying midfielder falls into the hole between the two center-backs. The player numbers are not important here, and the corresponding player will be described here. Barcelona should start a high press starting from the front three. Whether it be Ansu Fati or Griezmann in the left-wing, both should press intensely. Messi and Suarez should also be pressing aggressively to try and stop attacks from the beginning stages.
Now, the midfield two (Two of De Jong, Puig, Vidal, Roberto, or Rakitic) should take the midfield two as both Thiago and Goretzka are competent at controlling the midfield and distributing the ball should they gain possession. So, it is important for the Barcelona midfielders to block passing lanes to the Bayern midfielders by zonal marking.
The next key marking system involves Barcelona’s defence. Lenglet takes on Muller, while Pique takes the striker. Semedo takes Coman while Gnabry is marked by Jordi Alba. If the ball passes the attack, we enter the next phase of pressing. The Barcelona full-back presses the Bayern full-back. This leaves space for his marker, and this is where Sergio Busquets comes in. By moving everyone to the right, the zonal marking still exists.
To secure a win against Bayern, central overloads while attacking is important. Bayern has two central midfielders, so they can be overloaded 3 or 4 to 2 and be dominated when building up. While other teams play a 4-2-3-1, Barcelona plays a 4-3-3. Assuming Busquets doesn’t play in a very advanced role, there will only be two midfielders for Barcelona to counter Bayern’s double pivot. This does not create overloads. However, this is where Lionel Messi comes into play. Messi’s creative ability means that he drops deep and centrally to supplement Barça’s midfield and create chances for Suarez and the other Barcelona attacker.
How Barcelona can counter Bayern Munich’s threat: A nutshell
- Barcelona should employ a zonal marking system.
- Barcelona should play a high-intensity game, with the ability to transition from defence to attack with ease.
- Barcelona should not be making a lot of sideways passes. Instead, they should be more direct and aim to play courageous forward passes into the box for the attackers.
- The substitutes should be made in a timely manner. Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati especially should be playing the game, either by starting or by joining as a substitute.
With that being said, here’s the lineup that I would like to see Barcelona play on Friday night against Bayern Munich:
The defence sorts itself with the available players and the players in form. Sergio Busquets has been rested and is good to go against Bayern too. Frenkie De Jong seems to be a no-brainer, considering he put on a stellar performance against Napoli and has been good the entire season. The final midfielder role was a toss-up, but I believe it should be Riqui Puig. The midfield maestro is a quality creator and is good at making defence-splitting passes, is energetic when pressing and adds the spark of creativity and energy to the side.
The attack almost set itself too. Lionel Messi should start after his sublime performance against Napoli. Luis Suarez should start at striker as well. The final left-wing option is quite difficult to decide, but I think Setien should go for Ansu Fati.
Ansu Fati is a pacy winger that excels in making runs behind the defence. His off-the-ball movements at such a young age are a marvel to witness, and if he continues to do so, he can hopefully give Kimmich hell. He can also occupy Kimmich well to let Alba loose and attack the box with his trademark low crosses.
Barcelona will face the most difficult game of their season so far against an in-form Bayern Munich that comes in with a great form, winning 22 out of their last 23 games. But, we are Barcelona and we can emerge through difficult situations if we put our 100% focus into the game. Let’s get this.
Visca El Barca!