Juventus’ 2-0 defeat at the hands of the mighty Bayern Munich did leave quite a lot surprised not because the German giants came out on top but the manner in which they did. Jupp Heynckes’ side went into the game in a confident mood after hammering fellow Bundesliga side Hamburger SV by a massive seven goal margin. The Old Lady, on the other hand boosted their chances of Serie A glory by beating Milanese giants Internazionale over the weekend.
Juventus started the highly anticipated match in their traditional 3-5-2 system with Stephan Lichtsteiner and Federico Peluso as the wing-backs, flanking the midfield trio of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. Italian international Peluso replaced Kwadwo Asamoah in what was indeed a surprise inclusion in the starting eleven. Their opponents of the night however lined-up in a 4-2-3-1 with Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Franck Ribery behind Mario Mandzukic as the lone striker.
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The start of the game itself didn’t really pan out well for the visitors, as they fell behind to an early strike from Austrian international David Alaba who, having found significant space some 35 yards out, produced a shot Gianluigi Buffon is more than adept at keeping out. A wicked deflection from Juventus midfielder Vidal, however, wrong footed the keeper, who couldn’t scramble across to save the effort and Bayern had the lead.
With Toni Kroos being injured after the first quarter, it looked like probably Juventus would now make the most of his absence by making a come back into the game. However the introduction of Arjen Robben meant that all three of the attacking midfielders could interchange positions (since all are competent enough to operate in any of the roles), which they did, prompting Ribery to almost roam around in a free role across the middle third.
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Juventus' usual outlets of the wing-backs carrying the ball from defense to attack was being closed down well by Bayern’s strategy of using both the winger and the full back against them, thereby forcing the play towards the centre. The duo of Luis Gustavo and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had been deployed in the holding role, performed their roles to perfection by closing down the spaces in the centre of the park, thereby making the link up play almost impossible.
As far as their central midfield was concerned, Marchisio looked completely out of sorts in what was a tightly held area by the Bayern midfield. The ability of the trio was well known and thus well countered by the Germans, by hardly giving them time on the ball. The lack of width enforced upon the Turin side suffocated the Italians, leaving both Matri and Quagliarella isolated upfront.
Add to this when Bayern had the ball, they used their front three of Muller, Ribery and Robben well in order to occupy the attention of the three-man Juventus defence.
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The change in tactics when Bayern lost the ball didn’t help matters either. With Mandzukic dropping deep to retrieve the ball as soon as it was lost, the side from Munich quickly changed to a flexible 4-3-3 system to add that one man extra in the centre of the park, thereby countering Juventus’ three. All in all, Juventus were taken aback by the direct play the Germans deployed against them, not to mention the lack of a plan B they had if and when their channels are not functioning as was the case today.
As far as the second leg and qualification to the semi-final in concerned, Juventus manager Antonio Conte has plenty to think about, as his side looked terribly out of ideas.