Setting out a Plan for Juventus to Shut Down Bayern Munich's Douglas Costa

Adam DigbyFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2016

Juventus' Swiss defender Stephan Lichtsteiner (R) challenges Bayern Munich's Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Juventus and Bayern Munich at the Juventus Stadium in Turin on February 23, 2016.  AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN / AFP / OLIVIER MORIN        (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

There is little doubt how impressive Juventus have been domestically, winning 18 of their last 19 Serie A fixtures and reclaiming top spot in the league table, while simultaneously earning a place in the Coppa Italia final for the second consecutive season.

Just as it did last term, their strong form has also carried over into the Champions League, registering home and away victories over Manchester City in the group stage before recording a credible 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich.

That first leg of their knockout tie showed both how superb this version of the Bianconeri can be, while also highlighting a few of their weaknessesparticularly as the Bavarian giants carved them open repeatedly during the opening 45 minutes.

Key to that was the performance of Douglas Costa, the winger showing just why the German club paid €21 million to sign him from Shakhtar Donestsk, per BBC Sport. Largely operating on the left flank, his constant probing of the Juventus defence eventually opened up the space elsewhere that led to Bayern’s two goals.

As the graphic in the tweet below highlights, the Brazilian took one shot, completed 30 of his 37 pass attempts (81 percent) and created one clear scoring opportunity in an eye-catching 83-minute performance.

However, as can be seen from the fact he completed just two of his seven take-on attempts, opposition head coach Massimiliano Allegri was well aware of the threat posed by Costa and took measures to nullify his impact.

Countering it with a trio of markers, it is perhaps here where some adjustments could help the Bianconeri in the second leg at the Allianz Arena. In Turin, right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and winger Juan Cuadrado often doubled up on the 25-year-old, with Sami Khedira providing extra cover from his role on the right of midfield.

Yet when the Germany international was replaced by Stefano Sturaro in the 68th minute, there was little doubt that Juventus looked much more solid, while the substitute also snatched the vital equalising goal.

The 23-year-old's ability without the ball and limitless energy brought an extra dimension to the Juventus effort, something that Allegri would do well to consider before naming his starting XI on Wednesday.

Sturaro has already proved to be a valuable member of the squad and is now arguably the club’s fourth-choice midfielder behind Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba, averaging an impressive 2.1 tackles and 0.8 interceptions per game in his 21 appearances this season, according to

His inclusion during the second leg would mirror the bold choice Allegri made last term, starting Sturaro in the semi-final against Real Madrid. In Germany, the coach will need even greater balance, however, and sacrificing a striker to bring in Alex Sandro may well be key to that aim.

A four-man defence of Lichtsteiner, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Patrice Evra would provide a stable base, with Cuadrado and Sandro adding cover as well as attacking intent ahead of them.

Luca Bruno/Associated Press

That point was discussed in further detail in this previous post, and—combined with the inclusion of Sturaro—would surely help Juventus overcome Pep Guardiola’s men, with Allegri seemingly well aware of what is required.

“Bayern’s strength is the way in which they control the ball,” the coach said at a recent press conference. “We need to stand firm in these moments and defend doggedly, while obviously hurting them when we’ve opportunities to exploit their weaknesses.”

Stopping Costa will be integral to that, while starting their own threats on the wing would help when Juventus win possessionall essential ingredients if they are to beat the Bundesliga champions.