The much-anticipated Champions League clash between Bayern Munich and Barcelona with the return of Robert Lewandowski to his former stomping ground ended with the Bavarians victorious. Here we look at five takeaways from the Allianz Arena encounter.
1. Dayot Upamecano won the battle with Robert Lewandowski
Julian Nagelsmann’s decision to go with Dayot Upamecano in the centre of defence to partner Lucas Hernandez proved the right one as the French defender repaid his trainer’s faith by winning the battle with Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern trainer opted to bring in Upamecano in place of Matthijs de Ligt, who played against Stuttgart at the weekend.
The theory was that Upamecano had proved in the past (while at Leipzig) that he could play well against Lewandowski, plus he offered the pace and power that the Dutchman can’t match. Upamecano showed excellent focus throughout the match to keep Lewandowski goalless (something that doesn’t happen often at the Allianz Arena).
In terms of team selection, Nagelsmann got this one right.
2. Leon Goretzka’s impact was a key factor
Nagelsmann had made it clear at the press conference before that he would be pairing Marcel Sabitzer with Joshua Kimmich in the centre of midfield after Leon Goretzka had started at the weekend. Whether it was Sabitzer’s yellow card that forced the coach’s hand, but the substitution of Goretzka for the Austrian at half-time proved highly effective.
Bayern had largely spent the opening 45 minutes attempting to score the perfect goal by putting together 10 passes in the opposition box before shooting. Goretzka arrived on the scene and instantly blasted a shot in from distance. The resulting corner led to the opening goal for Hernandez.
Goretzka came on and brought increased aggression and muscle and started to bully the Barca midfield in a way they hadn’t experienced in the first half. Goretzka while not a direct match-winner certainly made a very positive impact.
3. Bayern rode their luck in the first half
The 2-0 win was largely (if not totally) down to the second half performance. Bayern rode their luck in the first half and particularly in the first 20 minutes when poor ball retention allowed Barcelona to attack them with Robert Lewandowski having two good chances and Pedri also going close.
They seemed to be in a rush and their wild play lacked the calmness required for such an occasion. The hosts could not be said to have ‘controlled’ the first 45 minutes in any way and their wayward passing and lack of attacking precision brought the recent shortcomings against Gladbach, Union and Stuttgart into focus.
We have no control over the game and every second pass goes to a Barcelona player.
4. Leroy Sané is winning over the doubters
A Man of the Match display from Leroy Sané has just added to his growing reputation this season. There has never really been any doubt about Sané’s ability, it has been his consistency and application that has been called into question. This season however has seen a number of accomplished performances and against Bayern he was the stand-out Bayern player.
His pace. dribbling and direct running troubled the Catalans, even if in the first half he did tend to overdo things and seek an extra pass when it wasn’t needed. He took his goal superbly as he once again showed great understanding in his link-up play with Jamal Musiala.
The Sané enigma might be solved.
5. Had Thomas Müller started on the birthday cake a bit early?
In any Bayern victory over Barcelona in recent years it has almost been compulsory to laud the performance of Thomas Müller. Whether it was because of his assists (to Lewandowski) or his goals, Bayern’s attacking midfielder is usually amongst the names getting the most praise.
On his 33rd birthday however, you got the impression that he had perhaps cracked open the birthday cake earlier in the day, overdone the party and then had to face Barcelona. He didn’t enjoy his best of games, with Bayern struggling to get their attack going in the first half.
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