clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

FC Barcelona vs Bayern Munich: Four Questions About Bayern with Bavarian Football Works

We spoke with Ryan Cowper of Bavarian Football Works, SBNations' Bayern blog, ahead of his club's visit to the Camp Nou.

Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

It's been a while since we've crossed enemy lines and looked for some insight from the other side, so we jumped at the chance when Ryan contacted us. We exchanged four questions, the last one a lighthearted one to ease some of the tension, and the rest is history. Below you will find Ryan's answers to our questions while a link to the "reverse leg" will be added once BFW publish it on their website. Speaking about their website, be sure to take a look at the work the guys do at Bavarian Football Works - but, it goes without saying, behave.

[Update: Link to BFW's article can be found here: Questions with Barca Blaugranes]

1) The last time Bayern were in the Semi-Final they were annihilated by Real Madrid, with Pep Guardiola showing a stubbornness to change his tactics to neutralize Real's strengths. Is there a fear that could happen again this season, which could be compounded by the fact that Pep is facing "his" club for the first time as a coach, or have steps been taken that that will not happen again?

Last season's defeat to Real Madrid still hangs heavy on the minds of most Bayern Munich fans and given the 7-0 humiliation Bayern laid on Barcelona two years ago, there's a genuine fear that a similar result could happen given the play of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar and the astuteness Luis Enrique has shown.

That said, this year has given Bayern Munich fans some hope. Pep Guardiola has shown a willingness to move away from possession-based play when it suits Bayern Munich's game-plan. He's become a much more pragmatic coach this year than he ever was last year. A huge component to that has been he's had two years to learn how to respond to counterattacking which is the one skill every Bundesliga side brings in spades.

To demonstrate just how far Guardiola has had to go this season in his tactical pragmatism, Bayern played two huge games to start the month of April where Guardiola eschewed possession entirely and focused on defensive solidity, direct play, and counterattacking. Those games were some of the most exciting to Bayern fans who yearn for the days of the treble, but results were somewhat mixed with a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and a scoreless 120-minute result against Bayer Leverkusen (Bayern eventually won on penalties) in the DFB Pokal. However, they definitely show that Pep Guardiola has evolved and grown as a coach.

2) What is Bayern's biggest weakness?

Bayern Munich's biggest weakness is still their susceptibility to the counterattack. With Guardiola's love of the high line, this makes his backline choices the most important part of his entire squad selection. The key player to watch is Dante. The Brazilian center-back was a crucial part of the Bayern Munich's treble under Jupp Heynckes but has been somewhat reviled ever since as he's continually struggled with the high line. While Dante is good enough to get away with this against lesser teams, teams with pace and technical ability frequently can expose him. The rest of the Bayern Munich defensive corps, including Jerome Boateng, Mehdi Benatia, Rafinha, and Xabi Alonso (yes, Xabi plays centerback for Bayern occasionally and I totally don't blame you for snorting and snickering) don't have those same issues.

The hard part about this is that if Guardiola opts to play his defensive line deeper, then Dante's biggest weakness is entirely removed and Bayern suddenly can become an indomitable defensive monster as Dante is a potent physical, aerial, and ball playing centerback. If Bayern go that route, then their biggest weakness is set pieces which should not come as a shock to Barcelona fans who used know to how Guardiola works.

3) Bayern have been plagued by injuries this season, especially in the later stages of the season. Do Bayern have enough depth to not only take on the challenge that is Barcelona but come out victorious?

After last season's disastrous injury problems, Bayern Munich have the depth to take on Barcelona. Every Bayern player 1 through 22 is fully capable of slotting into one of multiple positions and they all integrate seamlessly. Having the likes of Philipp Lahm, Thiago, and Thomas Müller who are all brilliant tactical players who can change their roles and play at the drop of a hat is one of the main keys to that ability.

Even without the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, David Alaba, and Robert Lewandowski (his status for Wednesday is still questionable despite the fact he looks downright terrifying in a face mask), they still have the tactical tools and depth to take this game to Barcelona.

4) Are Bayern players going to practice penalties after the debacle against Borussia Dortmund or is Pep going to fire the groundskeeper?

Remember that one time when Neymar launched a penalty shot into orbit in a friendly against Colombia? Good times. Given that, my money's on firing the groundskeeper -- bet he was an intern.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Barca Blaugranes Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Barca news from Barca Blaugranes