Lessons to learn for Barcelona and Xavi
Barcelona took on Bayern Munich in the Champions League once more and again failed to win at the home of the Bavarian giants. The visitors did come much closer this time around but will need to learn from this game if they are to taste success this season.
Xavi’s side enjoyed a great start and dominated the first half. Robert Lewandowski was uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal, while Pedri also missed some good chances to break the deadlock.
10 - Barcelona have attempted 10 shots in the first half against Bayern, becoming the first away team to attempt 10+ shots in a first half at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League since Fiorentina in October 2008 (11). Unleashed. pic.twitter.com/aaHbD3sASn— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 13, 2022
Bayern rode their luck at times, changed things around at the break and were much better in the second half. Some poor marking gifted the hosts their first goal which seemed to suck the confidence out of Barcelona.
Four minutes later and it was 2-0 to Bayern and pretty much game, set and match. This time Barca left too much room in midfield which Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane exploited to double the hosts’ lead.
Xavi’s frustration at his players’ mistakes was obvious after the match. His team had come close to a first ever win at Bayern but must cut out the mistakes and be more ruthless in front of goal if they are to beat the elite.
Xavi still searching for his best defense
Xavi has been tinkering with his defense all season and named another new backline for the trip to Bayern. Marcos Alonso was in from the start, Andreas Christensen partnered Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde was back at right-back.
The decision to go with Alonso was something of a surprise but the Chelsea left-back enjoyed a solid showing, at least until the first goal went in.
16 - Barcelona have conceded 16 goals from the last 30 shots on target they have faced against Bayern Munich in the Champions League (four games). Terror. pic.twitter.com/a24o59PNJf— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 13, 2022
Alonso switched off for the corner, allowing an unmarked Lucas Hernandez to head past Marc-Andre ter Stegen from three yards. It was a costly mistake by the summer signing.
“No way should our rival be allowed to score from a failure of marking at a corner when we have the match under control,” seethed Xavi after the match.
You get the feeling Xavi will switch his defense around again at the weekend for the visit of Elche as he continues to search for his best combination at the back.
Gavi and Pedri the best of the bunch
In midfield we saw Xavi once again trust his youngsters ahead of more experienced options like Frenkie de Jong and Franck Kessie. Pedri and Gavi featured alongside captain Sergio Busquets and went on to run the show in the first half.
Gavi has looked absolutely superb in Barca’s last few games and shone again at Bayern. The 18-year-old, who will sign his contract renewal at Barcelona tomorrow, created four chances alone in the first half. That’s as many as the whole Bayern team managed and one more than the rest of his Barcelona team-mates put together.
If only Barca had managed to put one away then who knows what might have happened?
Pedri also stood out with skill and composure on the ball despite missing chances to score. The 19-year-old is simply a joy to watch and knows more than anyone his name should have been on the scoresheet.
The Spain international admitted as much after the final whistle but you suspect that those are the kinds of chances he will put away in the future as he continues to develop his game.
Why no penalty for Ousmane Dembele?
Barcelona might also have scored if a first-half penalty had been awarded for a foul on Ousmane Dembele. The Frenchman went down after a challenge by Alphonso Davies that had the visitors screaming for a spot-kick.
Images: Foul on Dembélé. Apparently 'not' a penalty. pic.twitter.com/N9BSBRbBeH— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) September 13, 2022
Except there was nothing given and no VAR check either. Why? Even Bayern goalscorer Lucas Hernandez said after the game he thought it should have been a penalty.
VAR came to Barca’s rescue last time out in the Champions League when Viktoria Plzen were awarded a penalty and Andreas Christensen was sent off. A check swiftly revealed the Barca defender has been hit in the face and both decisions were chalked off.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the technology working in the right way for once which only makes the decision not to even look at the decision involving Dembele even more baffling.
Lewandowski denied on Bayern return
Barcelona’s defeat was not only down to issues in defense but also failures in attack where Lewandowski did not manage to put the ball in the back of the net for once.
All eyes were on the Poland international as he made his return to Bayern and his first chance came after great work by Gavi and Ousmane Dembele. The striker looked destined to score but hammered a volley just over the bar.
Robert Lewandowski failed to score from SEVEN shots against former club Bayern Munich last night. Only on one occasion in 108 #UCL appearances has he failed to score from more attempts (8 vs Celtic in Oct 2017). A night to forget....— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 14, 2022
Lewandowski also had a header saved by Manuel Neuer and missed another chance late in the first half after being played in by Pedri.
It was a very rare off night for the 34-year-old who has been superb since he switched the Allianz Arena for the Camp Nou in the summer transfer window.
Yet Lewandowski is already looking ahead. He wrote on Instagram, “It was a tough evening. Now it’s time to focus on the future.”
You can bet he’s already thinking about Bayern’s visit to the Camp Nou on October 26.