UCL Round of 16, Second Leg
Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Aggregate: 3-0 to Bayern Munich
A lot has changed since Chelsea hosted Bayern at Stamford Bridge in February. The world was plunged into a chaos and football remained suspended for at least 3 months in most nations and it was doubted for a time if it would be possible at all to restart the tournament. But here we are now 5.5 months later, waiting with bated breath for the best football competition in the world to restart, albeit in scale much less grand than other years.
The tournament has been cramped into a moths time and all the quarter-finals and the semi-finals will now be single legged fixtures played at neutral venues, at Benfica’s Stadium in Lisbon Portugal. The championship will be much more intense with the teams having no second chance to put things rights and I think Bayern is way better suited to handle that amount of pressure when compared to Chelsea. But wait, I get ahead of myself, Chelsea and Bayern still have a round of 16 match to contend with, so?
The Bavarians have the upper hand.
Bayern Munich won the first leg against Chelsea 3-0, away from home and no team in the UCL has ever been able to overturn that in the history of the championship but you can never tell in football! Then, it is possible for sure but unlikely! To add to the fact that the German champions have been in tremendous form ever since the restart after the pandemic break, having drawn only one game in the Bundesliga and lost none. Their record is best in all of Europe since the restart and they have only Real Madrid anywhere near in that pedestal. However, it’s not just the record or the wins but also they way they have played that have made the whole football community sit up and take notice. Flick’s Bayern has shown zeal and the ability to win any game against any opponent with excellent tactical skills, something which had been missing from the team for the last couple of seasons. It was only last season that they were considered the “weaker team” among the European giants in the Champion’s League and much of it was due to the erstwhile coach Kovach’s inability to understand the philosophy of the team. But things have changed under the new coach Hansi Flick, Bayern are at their attacking best. They press high and defend solid now. The full backs will advance up the picht and aided by the help of Davis’ pace will open up passing lanes on both sides. The ‘double pivot’ of Kimmich and Goretzka will press the opposition defenders, opening up passing links and then the masterful “raumdeuter” i.e Muller will have space enough to either feed balls to Lewy or go for goal himself. Goretzka can also link up with Muller and if needed present himself within the box at the last moment and add another scoring option. The wingers Gnabry and Coman will add to the verticality of the team moving the ball up the pitch and not Gnabry’s appetite for scoring goals in big games will only make the team better. Defensively, Pavard, Alaba and Boateng have been doing a tremendous job at the back and in case the opposition has enough possession of the ball to be able to press Bayern back they will defend in a 4-3-3, making then incredibly hard to break. Sounds perfect and full proof on paper, doesn’t it? But that ain’t the case, there’s trouble even in paradise.
Pavard is out of the team against Chelsea and could be missing the rest of the season, in that case Bayern will find themselves in a pickle because they have no other quality RB in the team. Pavard has been excellent through out the season, quietly doing his job at the back, defending staunchly and winning headers and in his absence the team will have to get Kimmich to RB and break his beautiful partnership with Goretzka. The other viable option is to play the Real Madrid loanee Odriozola, but how shall I say? Ummm…he ain’t good enough. He is faster than Pavard but does not hold his position well when defending and allows the opposition to get behind him quite easily. The other option would be to get Lucas Hernandez to play RB. It can be a cool dig to get the left footed Hernandez playing at RB, however, that adjustment would take time and match practice to work, neither of which Bayern has. In that case, Kimmich goes back to RB and holds his position and none of that inverted full-back thing, for that would be robbing Davis of his utility. So, Kimmich does not cut back in but remains wide and gets the ball forward, he is an able defender anyway. The mid-field will then see the return of Thiago to accompany Goretzka.
If only this was all. Coman has some muscular problems and that will hamper the balance of the team too. He might be missing the tie against Chelsea and who knows which else! In that case, it would be either Ivan Perisic or Coutinho who will fill in the gap. Personally I can not care less for Perisic, he was a typical Kovach signing, the kind that would die for a clean sheet and does not fit Flick’s Bayern. So, I would go for Coutinho in the middle and Muller in the Right Wing.
The Blues in a spot of Bother!
Chelsea has improved finishing in the top 4 of the Premier League takes some doing and they did it. However, the team lacks consistency. They have not played consistently well enough in the later half of the tournament and their defensive woes have shown every time they’ve come against a good opposition. They will definitely have a better season the next time simply beacuse of the signings that they will be adding to their sheet. The Bundesliga trio of Pulisic, Werner and Havertz will make the team much stronger attacking wise but their defense still will be needing work. But that is still some time way and without the services of Pulisic and Werner not eligible to play in the UCL for them, it’s hard for them to go far.
It isn’t that they have not been brilliant at times, take for example the game against City. Lampard provided a master class, literally for anyone looking to break Pep’s “gegen-press” but the problem is that they have failed to sustain that sort of winning momentum. The F.A final was a match on the opposite side of the spectrum, while most Chelsea fan have been busy blaming the referee decisions, they overlook the fact that they were second best to a faltering Arsenal all night. On the other end of the pitch, had Azpilicueta not pulled up his hamstring, he would have been forced to make a mad tackle against Aubameyang and gone out with a red card because he was seriously struggling. I dare say he would not have fared much better against the likes of Davis, Gnabry or Lewy. Pulisic was their ray of hope along with the season veteran Giroud, who has repeatedly found the net since the restart. But the former is injured and the latter is in not better company. Their young star Tammy Abrahamform seems to have dipped and he does not find the goal regularly anymore.
To add to that, the men in Blue have been complaining about the workload, with the Chelsea boss going on record to say that the players were being over worked and the EPL season was starting too soon. Add to that their injury woes. Azpilicueta, Pulisic, Willian, Rodriguez are all out of the tie with injuries.
Cover the Spread Betting trends:
Bayern Munich v Chelsea: Head-to-head
Bayern Munich wins: 3
Chelsea wins: 2
Bayern Munich v Chelsea: Form Guide
Last five matches (in all competitions)
Bayern Munich: W-W-W-W-W
Bayern Munich: 4-2-3-1
Kimmich, Boateng, Alaba, Davis
Muller, Coutinho, Gnabry
Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Mount
Emerson, Kovacic, Barkley, James
Rudinger, Christtensen, Zouma
Free UCL Picks Bayern Munich vs Chelsea.
There isn’t much chance of Chelsea overturning this, but then this might be the time of a miracle for Chelsea, but again, that is improbable! However, if there is one thing that might play against the Bavarians, it is the fact that they have been out of action for more than a month. They might be rusty and this match could be their best opportunity to get back to match fitness.
There was a talk of resting Kimmich for the match because he is already on 2 yellow card and another against his name would have had him suspended in the quarter-final. But since the UEFA has announced that cards from the round of 16 won’t be carried forward this year, it makes no sense to drop Kimmich especially since he is one of the most vital cogs of the team and in need of match practice.