Over the past and preceding decades we have seen some the best football of all time being produced by the Catalan club. With a distinct style and philosophy that’s been followed and respected all around the world, it’s fair to say that Barcelona is an institution. Despite being graced with some of the greatest talents the game has ever witnessed such as Cruyff, Laudrup, Koeman, Ronaldinho and many more, it is their innovative playing style that the club has become renowned for.
Most recently their La Masia academy has made a name for themselves with homegrown talents being nurtured to break into the senior squad. They’re the only club that has accomplished two trebles in Spanish football history with catalans Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta at the heart of the success.
However as is always the case with Barcelona, the club seems to love a crisis which threatens to engulf the very foundations of the club. Cases of money laundering, inboard fighting, animosity amongst directors and players has seen the club lost its way. They’re no more the force they used to be.
It could also be down to the transition that all super clubs have to go through and that’s always a slow process. Or it could just be ridiculously high expectations with regards to sustainable success and maintaining the quality of their football. The most recent victim of this has been Ernesto Valverde. Even though he won the La Liga title, he was never a fan favorite and the poor performances against opponents Liverpool and Roma in the past couple of seasons have been his undoing.
So the board recently took action and brought in Quique Setien. A man who advocates in attacking systems. He earned his reputation at Real Betis, where he focused mainly on youth players and played them with freedom. They were a very attractive footballing side.
And so has been the case with Barcelona. They have recently begun to play very good football and we have witnessed some interesting lineups and formations in order to make the best use of talents at Setien’s disposal. Only one problem, he hasn’t had enough time. It was always going to be a tough job for any coach to take over a club during the course of a season.
After losing the La Liga crown to bitter rivals Real Madrid, Quique Setien is now a man under pressure. Some would say it’s unfair considering he hasn’t had enough time to build a winning side. Some would say that’s how football is. And now Setien and Barcelona have no choice but to win the Champions League. Anything short, and he might be shown the door.
Quique Setien plays a dynamic 4-3-3 which expands through the wing backs that cover the flanks but remains compact in the midfield. One of the 3 in the middle tend to support the defense when in possession that allows the wing backs to move forward ahead of the half way line.
But whilst we have seen similar tactics from other coaches such as Pep Guardiola using his defensive midfielder in a screen sweeper mode moving between the center backs, Quique Setien’s midfielder (most recently Rakitic) falls back essentially as a third center back on the left allowing the formation to tactically shift to a 3-4-3. Messi’s starting position is usually the right of the front 3 moving inwards.
Barcelona do not play many crosses. Their passing is more intricate around the penalty area and they often break the offside trap with quick deep runs from any of the front 3. Their defense has been suspect at times. And they can’t defend set pieces. But the old adage of keeping possession and tiring the opposition definitely works and Barcelona will be more than capable of overcoming their opponents for the quarterfinal.
If Barcelona are the institution, then Bayern Munchen are the benchmark. A team dominating the Bundesliga for years and years. And although the likes of Dortmund have tried, Bayern’s consistency at the top has never been matched. Some legendary players have played for this club. And we’ve witnessed Bayern win the treble under Jupp Heynckes, win countless titles while breaking cultural norms under Pep Guardiola, and achieve legendary status by winning their 29th Bundesliga title.
Historically they’ve always been an elite club that has always supported their directors, coaches and players. Bayern are a club that follow specific protocols. And they’re a club that believes bringing in talent while nurturing home grown players as well. Some greats have been synonymous with the club such as Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthaus, Karl Heinz Rummenigge, Gerd muller, Oliver Kahn etc.
Recent seasons haven’t been kind to the side from Munich. Indeed, ever since the departure of Pep Guardiola, the club have longed for the consistency and innovation that the Catalan had brought to the club. Many big name coaches have tried including Carlo Ancelotti, Willy Sagnol, Niko Kovac have come and gone. But the club seem to found the perfect match in their recent hiring Hansi Flick.
Hansi Dieter Flick comes with history. The man is a former player with Bayern Munchen. His move to management followed after completing courses in banking. And after receiving his coaching badges, he remained a coach at amateur level before getting his big break at Hoffenheim earning them promotion from 4th to 3rd division before Ralf Rangnick took over to take the side to Bundesliga 2.
In 2006, Hansi Flick was appointed assistant coach to Joachim Lowe for the German national team. After finishing runners up at Euro 2008 and 3rd place at World Cup 2010, Die Mannschaft conquered all comers at 2014 World cup in Brazil. By 2019. he found himself appointed as assistant coach to Niko Kovac at Bayern Munchen. After Niko Kovac was relieved of his duties, Hansi Flick was given a caretakers role before he got the job full time after leading the Bavarians to the Bundesliga title.
Hansi Flick plays a very compact 4-2-3-1. His team are known to press and cover space rather than players. They look very assured in the middle of the park and upfront they have a man in form. Many pundits have considered Lewandowski to be the best player in the world this season. The Polish striker has notched up a ridiculous 53 goals in 44 games in all competitions. Muller has also revived his form and has been influential after the break.
In Alfonso Davis, they have one of the brightest young talents in the modern game albeit a tad suspect positionally, but that is not all, Bayern have the deadliest wingers in Gnabry and Coman. Kimmich’s star has been rising since playing alongside Thiago has been their main orchestrator from the middle of the park. Bayern are very solid and look like a side with no flaws at any area. If there is a weak point, it will have to be their central defense. Boateng isn’t getting any younger and at times Alaba looks too exposed.
FC Bayern Munchen: M. Neuer, J. Boateng, D. Alaba, A. Davies, J. Kimmich, L. Goretzka, Thiago A., S. Gnabry, K. Coman, Muller, R. Lewandowski
FC Barcelona: M. Ter Stegen, G. Pique, C. Lenglet, J. Alba, N. Semedo, S. Busquets, Rakitic, De Jong, A. Greizmann, L. Messi, L. Suarez
Both 5 time winners have played some great football after the break. But recent form would suggest Bayern will run away with a convincing win. But knockout rounds are never straight forward and with so many world class players on show, anything can happen. It is unlikely that both coaches will be deploying a specific tactic to stop the opposition. Both coaches are attack minded and have a strong belief in their philosophy. Therefore, we’ll be seeing some great attacking football no doubt.
Much will depend on the starting 11. The individuals on display will bring a distinct dimension with them and that in turn will lead to an outcome that will be favored or otherwise. Bayern will attack the flanks with the lively Coman and Gnabry while Barcelona will be more intricate in their passing and movement. Much will depend in the midfield battle where Thiago’s duel with his former club will be crucial especially against the likes of De Jong and Rakitic.
This game has goals written all over it. Barcelona will be varying of the threat Bayern bring with them on the wings. Bayern will be extra cautious in the middle of the park where Barcelona’s key men can penetrate. Messi and Lewandowski will score.
There’s interesting battle developing amongst goal keeper Manuel Neuer and Marc Ter Stegen with more than just their own reputations on the line. If the game goes to penalties, who’s gonna win? Bayern should win it but only by the closest of margins (score 2-3).