Manchester United v Bayern Munich; on any day is a big European clash; forget the fact that both teams are on different pedestals at the moment, forget 1999, the games that have come after where Bayern have triumphed over United. To exact revenge properly on Manchester United; Bayern need to meet United in a cup final, will that ever happen? Not on this current form especially from the Manchurians current position. There is nothing more enduring and pleasing than watching a replay of the injury time goals by now United Legends; Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or the hilarious rolling on the floor and shedding of tears by Samuel Kuffor (he will probably be on Satellite TV tonight doing the game; bet he will never forget).
Today, both teams are completely different in all aspects; Bayern seem stronger, more fluid and lethal than the team that won the treble last season; whilst Manchester United look like a complete shadow of the team that won the League comfortably last season. Talk about a 360 turn around, an evolution of unimaginable proportions; no doubt the outcome seems like a foregone conclusion; but then this is football, every team goes into a game with a 50% chance of gaining a result, so from this perspective we will preview this game.
Under Pep’s guidance; Bayern have evolved from a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 playing side to a 4-1-4-1 side with Phillip Lahm as the defensive Midfield pivot being the interesting aspect of the new look Bayern. Interestingly; Pep has used the versatility of Lahm to perfection; deploying him in that role; gives Bayern the added incentive of an extra runner from deep; this is despite having probably the best wingers in the game, supported by attacking full backs; the runs off the ball by Lahm through the calming midfield presence of Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger provides a penetrative outlet when teams prove stubborn to break down.
For Manchester United under David Moyes; it has been one of tactical confusion; is it the 81 crosses debacle or the confusing deployment of Maroune Fellani and Tom Cleverly on the wings to track Manchester City’s attacking full backs. As Bayern have found a tactical Identity; United seem lost in a tactical abyss.
I feel Moyes will go with something of a semblance of the approach against Olympiakos; yes Bayern are a different proposition, but United have to go into this game with the right mentality, a will to win and a chance of making a game out of the encounter. Kagawa has to play and so does Januzaj; these two can provide the invention United require with Rooney concentrating on hurting the Germans in the final third and maybe the industry and guile of Danny Welbeck may bother the Bavarians (Can’t believe I just wrote that). Bayern are not at their best defensively when Dante is unavailable; hence the weak link has to be Jerome Boateng; his lapses in concentration must be exploited. If I were David Moyes; I would play the first 40 minutes of the 2010 encounter with Bayern Munich for the lads to watch how to attack with conviction and the need to keep their heads and concentration especially the likes of Carrick, Rafael and I fear for Buttner coming up against Robben.
Stats and Head to Head
Both teams have met 10 times; Bayern have the edge with 3 wins to 2 and 5 draws; United have kept 5 clean sheets in their last 6 games in the Champions League; Bayern are however undefeated in 12 of their last 13matches; the loss against a team from Manchester; is this a sign?
The Bavarians are overwhelming favourites without a shadow of doubt; but then like they always say this is football; anything is possible; more so it is Fool’s day; you just never know.
Barcelona v Atletico Madrid
The all Spanish encounter proves to be one of the more intriguing contests in the last 8 of this season’s Champions League. Interestingly; both teams are neck and neck in La Liga and there are some similarities in both teams. Barcelona especially under Pep Guardiola were the chief exponents of the pressing game; but you have got to say that Diego Simone’s side have added a robust physical approach to the intense pressing style. Both teams are yet to get the better of each other this season; but have two strikers at the peak of their powers; Diego Costa and Lionel Messi with 28 and 23 goals respectively; however Atletico’s strength has been in their defensive solidity and the work rate in midfield; Koke has been one of the shining lights in this regard along with Raul Garcia; who slots in quite well in the role behind the striker; however he will be missing through suspension. Barca will miss the ever present Victor Valdes; this is where I worry for Barcelona because Pinto is not an able deputy in this regard; this just adds to Barcelona’s defensive problems.
Under Gerrado “Tata” Martino; Barcelona have been lot more direct; this is not to mean they have neglected their tried and trusted possession football. It’s a battle of wits; 4-3-3 v 4-4-1-1; Barcelona may struggle with the physical side of the game, but with the first leg at the Nou Camp, the Catalans will seek to take advantage.
Atletico will miss Raul Garcia, who has adapted quite well to his role behind the lone striker; in certain quarters it is believed that Atletico may approach the game with a more attacking outlook with David Villa making a return to the starting eleven to hurt his former side in a 4-4-2 formation partnering Diego Costa. I feel Diego Simeone; would stay with the 4-4-1-1 with Villa still on the bench; this formation enables his team to put pressure on Barcelona’s midfield especially Sergio Busquets. Koke may move to the position behind the striker with either Christian Rodriguez returning to the side or Tiago to provide some steel in midfield and some creativity from Diego.
It promises to be an intriguing tactical battle, noting that both teams have only been separated by the away goals rule this season.
Stats and Head to Head
Atletico Madrid are winless in their last six meetings against Barcelona with this season’s encounter been the only time they have come quite close to the Catalans. History has the battle between both sides to be a high scoring encounter, but not on the strength of this season’s clashes.
With the first leg at the Nou Camp, you have got to say that Barcelona may have the edge, but then on the strength of the way Atletico blew Milan away in the second leg of the round of 16; you need to fear this Diego Simeone side. Maybe decided by the away goals rule.