Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona: 5 Things We Learned from Preseason Friendly
It was the first time the two teams had met since last season’s Champions League semi-finals, where Bayern demolished the La Liga side with an aggregate win of 7-0.
If that wasn't enough to increase the anticipation ahead of the game, it was also the first time that Pep Guardiola had faced his former employers. The manager had previously won 14 trophies in four years at Camp Nou.
Barca, who this week announced Gerardo Martino as their new coach (seen here on ESPNfc.com), were manager-less going into the game, with assistant coaches Jordi Roura and Rubi overseeing the side’s preparations.
The showpiece game, designed more as an exercise in regaining match fitness than a serious contest, cannot be dissected too intently.
As Barca’s first preseason outing and Bayern’s seventh, the two teams are at different stages of readiness.
However, over the next few slides, we look at five things that we learned from the meeting.
Pep Guardiola already looks at ease at the Allianz Arena.
Jupp Heynckes won a historic treble last season and left big shoes to fill, but Guardiola, confident in his own abilities, has been unafraid to stamp his own authority on the side.
Having experimented with a 4-1-4-1 and a 4-3-3 formation in preseason games so far, Guardiola is adding an element of surprise to the Bayern lineup.
A case in point would be the change of position for Philipp Lahm, formerly a right-back.
Guardiola has moved No. 21 into a more advanced role, playing to the right of Thiago Alcantara in midfield, with Rafinha slotting in at right-back.
Lahm seems to be relishing the role. He scored Bayern’s opener in the 14th minute and also scored in the team’s 5-1 Telekom Cup win against Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday.
Why bring Lahm into a midfield that is already packed with selection-headache-inducing talent? Guardiola likes to experiment. It’s as simple as that.
He may be fashioning a midfield that can do anything—defend, attack, pass, with no one player used in a specialized position.
Bayern played six preseason games ahead of the meeting with Barca and scored 35 goals. If it’s a sign of things to come, Pep’s tinkering should go quite well…
Barca's Youth—Brighter Than Ever
It’s common knowledge that La Masia churns out youngsters good enough to walk into most of the top sides in Europe, but sometimes it’s good to catch a glimpse of the players who could be the stars of the future.
Barca were without a legion of first-team names going into the game. With Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves and Neymar all yet to return after playing in the Confederations Cup and with Carles Puyol injured, most of the side’s first-choice players were absent.
La Blaugrana started the game fielding Pinto in goal, with Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra, Javier Mascherano and Adriano Correia in defence. Alex Song was in central midfield, with Jonathan dos Santos on the right and Sergi Roberto on the left. Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi and Cristian Tello were up front.
Apart from a quick start, which included a good shot from Messi, it looked like the game had come too early for Barcelona.
Bayern Munich, with several games already under their belts, were a lot sharper and fitter and ran out of the first half up 1-0.
Mascherano and Bartra incurred two yellow cards for silly tackles on Franck Ribery.
It was in the second half that Barca finally started to impress after making wholesale changes. On came goalkeeper Oier Olazabal and 10 Barca B team and youth players.
The youngsters held out until the 87th minute, when Mario Mandzukic scored for the hosts, and Barca were unlucky to concede.
Still, the future looks brighter than ever.
Whoever designs Barcelona’s kit has made some horrible choices in recent years when it comes to away shirts.
Last season’s yellow-and-orange number made Messi and Co. look like walking ice cream wrappers. It wasn't a good look.
And, at first glance, this season’s offering didn't appear to be too sharp either.
The new shirt is based on the Senyera, which is the Catalan flag. It’s the first time in the club’s history that the team will be wearing a shirt based on the design, according to the club’s official website.
Cool homage to Barca's roots or another fashion faux pas?
After the initial jarring impact, it’s actually an improvement on last year’s strip.
Thiago—Manchester United Fans, Look Away Now
Thiago Alcantara seems to have bedded into his new surroundings in no time at all.
In his third preseason appearance for Bayern, he appeared calm, relaxed and happy. The midfielder has already scored once for his new team.
In Sunday’s 5-1 win against Borussia Monchengladbach, he bagged his first goal for the side with a well-taken, chested goal.
In a midfield already crammed with talent in Mario Gotze, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Javi Martinez, among others, it looked like he might struggle to force his way into the Bayern lineup.
But if his preseason performances are anything to go by, he could be a regular in Guardiola’s plans.
As Goal.com's John Brandi puts it:
Thiago was the midfield anchor in a very attacking 4-1-4-1 formation against Hamburg. He was strong at winning the ball and showed his excellent passing skills. Consequently, the question mark over Thiago's signing has already begun to fade.
Franck Ribery—Best Player in Europe?
Franck Ribery's performance against Barcelona reminded us just how devastating he can be.
Admittedly, he was playing against an understrength and comparatively unfit Barca side, yet he stood out nevertheless.
Against Barca, Ribery's cross led to Lahm's headed goal. In addition, Ribery he put in a lively performance that saw Mascherano and Bartra booked for their attempts to bring him to a halt.
After winning the treble with Bayern Munich last year, this is Ribery's chance to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the title of Europe's Best Player.
He already looks primed for the Bundesliga season to begin.
Click here for the full 10-man shortlist for UEFA's Best Player in Europe 2012/13.