Bayern Munich 2-0 Juventus: Robben Torments Juve's Left, Vucinic Sorely Missed
A very watchable game at the Allianz Arena ended 2-0 to Bayern Munich thanks to a wonderful first half performance.
The Bavarian outfit opened the scoring within the first minute: a David Alaba shot from 30 yards was deflected into the far corner of the net leaving Gianluigi Buffon helpless. Thomas Mueller sealed the win in the second half with a tap-in, but Bayern will feel they should have scored more.
At halftime Gianluca Vialli branded what he saw the worst 45 minutes Juventus have played under Antonio Conte on Sky Italia and he was probably correct.
Let's break the game down from a tactical point of view.
It's always interesting to see a 4-2-3-1 come up against the 3-5-2 because of the many permutations possible in exposing each others' weaknesses.
Conte selected Federico Peluso at left-wing-back while Mirko Vucinic wasn't well enough to start after catching the flu. Jupp Heynckes went with a very predictable lineup, with the only change coming in Luiz Gustavo replacing Javi Martinez due to suspension.
Apart from the obvious setback of Alaba's goal, Juventus looked quite comfortable in the opening 10 minutes.
Toni Kroos, playing as a No. 10, was asked to man-mark Andrea Pirlo and attempt to stop him dictating the play from his regista role in Conte's three-man midfield.
He did a good job stopping Pirlo's vertical threat, but the Italian found Peluso and Lichtsteiner several times with lateral passes.
In the 16th minute, Kroos appeared to pull his hamstring and went off injured—it's never nice to see a player go off, but this was a blessing in disguise for Bayern.
Heynckes was forced to bring Arjen Robben on and switch Mueller inside, resulting in a rampant Dutch winger eager to prove why it was wrong to leave him on the bench.
He immediately began to attack Peluso whenever possible and took him to school in the wide areas. Giorgio Chiellini came inside from the wide areas to help but he too was taken to the cleaners.
Before the game, it was clear the plan would be to try and expose Peluso. Conte taking him over Kwadwo Asamoah was a very conservative selection, but the extent of which Robben pummeled him was almost beyond belief.
Bayern were hitting the byline with every opportunity and pinging low balls into the box: high balls are usually won by Juve's towering defensive line, but firing in low balls is a tactic even Conte uses when fielding Martin Caceres to feed Alessandro Matri.
After a promising spell in the first 15 minutes for the Old Lady, Robben became the catalyst for a dominant 30-minute spell for die Bayern.
Throughout the first half, it was evident that Juventus were struggling to keep the ball.
They looked flustered, which is a rarity, and many mistakes were made across the defensive line which placed the team under immense pressure.
The mistakes were a result of pressing: Kroos, then Mueller as his replacement, and Mario Mandzukic ran their hearts out for the side. Mueller ran an immense 12.53 km on the night, while Mandzukic managed 10.91 km (via Sky Sports Events Centre).
When Pirlo did receive the ball, he didn't get much to look at.
This was partially down to the man-marking job, but also down to a certain lack of Vucinic. The Montenegrin does not get the credit he deserves, but this encounter will serve as a global reminder of how instrumental he is.
He's the link between the forward line and Pirlo, and without him fit Juve have no one else capable of fulfilling the deep-lying forward role.
Matri and Fabio Quagliarella are two pure strikers—a poacher and a channel-runner respectively—and have never had the skillset to cope with receiving the ball under the amount of pressure Bayern exerted.
Even Claudio Marchisio was made anonymous, and if Bastian Schweinsteiger and co. managed that, Matri had absolutely no chance.
After Buffon's error to make it 2-0, Juventus felt a goal would still make it a mental victory for themselves.
Conte threw on a half-fit Vucinic and the difference was, dare I say, miraculous.
He linked the back line to the forwards and helped Juventus build momentum and pressure instantaneously. With Sebastian Giovinco on too, the Bianconeri went 4-4-2 with Chiellini at left-back in a Hail Mary attempt.
The Montenegrin gave Juventinos an agonising glance of what this game could have been had he started, and also made it clear to Conte that it's a position that needs shoring up—perhaps every effort should have been made to secure Fernando Llorente six months earlier.
Bayern still threatened, of course, through the hardworking Mandzukic and electric pairing of Robben and Franck Ribery, but the zest on Juve's midfield was almost unrecognisable.
Credit, though, to Dante and co. who withstood random spells of pressure to secure a clean sheet. The Brazilian was at his best, read the game superbly and saw off a variety of different threats in three different types of striker.
Overall, the defence's concentration levels were spot on.
It's not over, but it's a tough call for Juve.
Bayern's clean sheet at home was vital, and Robben admitted in the post-match interview on Sky Sports 2 that he'd have taken a 1-0.
A backlash ensues at the Juventus Stadium, but the Old Lady will be missing key men in Arturo Vidal and Stephan Lichtsteiner after they picked up bookings.
Javi Martinez will be back and you can expect Bayern to slow the tempo right down and frustrate.
Lastly, congratulations Bayern for a scintillating performance.
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