Champions League Insights: Bayern Munich vs Manchester United


Bayern Munich host Manchester United on Wednesday night with both sides aiming to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League. Bayern were expected to go to Old Trafford and win comfortably, but United were stubborn and held Bayern to a 1-1 draw. Bayern are still in the box seat with the crucial away goal but the tie is far from over.

 

Possible line-ups

Even with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez suspended  and injuries to Thiago Alcantara, Xherdan Shaqiri and Diego Contento, Bayern still have huge squad depth and will field a strong side.

Wayne Rooney is facing a late fitness test but he should be available for Manchester United. Patrice Evra will return at left back whilst Shinji Kagawa could start again after a good performance versus Newcastle. Juan Mata is ineligible having already appeared in the tournament for Chelsea.

 

Do Bayern need to use the ball better?

Bayern Munich were incredibly dominant in terms of possession against United, enjoying 74%. Bayern Munich completed a huge 806 passes to United's 281. Munich had all of the ball and if the tie was won on possession then it'd be well and truly over. But, the fact remains that they did not use the ball effectively enough and only managed to muster up three efforts on target:

 

For all the possession, Bayern Munich lacked penetration. United sat back and soaked up the pressure and could have even won. It was a blunt performance from the team that won the tournament in such convincing style last season. Manchester United might continue to sit off and let Bayern have the ball and frustrate the Bavarians.

If Bayern are going to defend their title they must show more cutting edge in this tie and get in behind United's at times frail back line more often. They may benefit though from the fact that Man United need to score a goal in this game and thus have to come forward a bit, in this case United will undoubtedly open themselves up to the counter attack more than they did at home.

 

How can United exploit Bayern Munich?

United shocked neutrals in the first leg with their resilient display and the fact that they not only went ahead but were unlucky not to go into the second leg with a lead. Danny Welbeck had one goal disallowed and squandered another glorious opportunity to give his side the lead late on.

Bayern kept a high line with Jerome Boateng and Javier Martinez pressed high up the pitch and left glaring gaps in behind them that United can exploit. If we observe the average positions for Bayern Munich's players versus Manchester United from the first leg we can see this first hand and there was also a huge gap between the two defenders at times as they looked to cover for their marauding full-backs:

 

Number 17 (Boateng) and number eight (Martinez) were not that close together and we saw how Welbeck used his pace to get in behind. If Bayern opt for this high line then Manchester United can sit back and try to play balls in behind to Welbeck, who has the pace to cause trouble and get on the end of loose balls.

This strategy is United's best bet as we can expect Pep Guardiola's side to push high up the pitch to dominate the ball, despite the fact that they are technically leading the tie. Guardiola is not the sort of manager to play counter-attacking football and will continue in his usual manner. Danny Welbeck then may well hold the key.

 

Conclusion

We will witness a clash of styles as these two teams match up on Wednesday evening. Bayern will undoubtedly have more of the ball than United but they will need to use it more effectively than they did at Old Trafford.

United will need to score a goal to make it through to the next round and the best way they can do this will be to utilize the space in behind Bayern Munich's centre-backs, who at times push up the field as well as move wide to cover the full-backs. Either way it'll be an intriguing clash between two European heavyweights.

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