Bayern Munich v Lyon: tactical preview

April 21, 2010

We haven’t had a German side in the Champions League semi-finalist since 2001/02, we haven’t had a French one since 2003/04. Both Leverkusen and Monaco went onto lose in the final, and it’s fair to say that whoever progresses from this tie will be expected to do the same.

Unlike the Inter v Barcelona game, this game should see fairly predictable line-ups. Both sides have generally kept the same formation throughout the season – Bayern with their attack-minded 4-4-2, Lyon with a more defensive 4-3-3. Bayern will be without two first-choice players through suspension – captain Mark van Bommel and Holger Badstuber, whilst Lyon will give late fitness tests to Jean-Alain Boumsong and Jean Makoun.

The advantage a 4-3-3 generally has over a 4-4-2 is the extra man in the centre of midfield. With Bayern’s central midfielders sitting fairly deep, they will be confronted by Makoun and Miralem Pjanic – and so it will be highly-rated Jeremy Toulalan who will become the free man, sitting infront of the defence and seeking to utilise his careful, methodical passing game, as well as breaking up any (rare) Bayern breaks from the centre of midfield.

The natural response to this will be for Louis van Gaal to tell Thomas Muller to drop back into the midfield when Bayern are out of possession, but in an era dominated by one-man attacks and three-man central midfield, this is a role Muller has become accustomed to (see the game against Schalke’s 4-3-3) and has done well defensively all season.

But, unusually for a 4-4-2 v 4-3-3 battle like this, the 4-4-2 side may actually find themselves with a numerical advantage in the centre of midfield, for not only to Bayern have a forward in Muller who can drop back, they have a centre-back in Martin Demichelis who is confident of stepping up into midfield (with Lyon only playing one striker) when Bayern have the ball. He did this to such great extent against Manchester United that Sir Alex Ferguson introduced Dimitar Berbatov specifically to stop the Argentine’s moves forward – a move which contributed to United losing the game, and the tie.

Bayern will replace Badstuber with 19-year-old Diego Contento, who will face the threat of Lyon’s alternating wingers. Danijel Pranjic can play at left-back but he be will probably be deployed as van Bommel’s replacement in the centre of midfield (creating a Pranjic v Pjanic battle) although Bayern could turn to Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, a talented midfielder who has yet to convince van Gaal of his worth.

The key battle will be Arjen Robben against Aly Cissokho. Robben has scored a glorious ‘winner’ (actually an equalising away goal) in both of Bayern’s previous ties against Fiorentina and against Manchester United, and comes into this game on a run of 16 goals in his last 18 games, including a hat-trick at the weekend. It is important that Lyon double up on him, and the fact that Michel Bastos is comfortable defensively (he plays at left-back for Brazil) means that Claude Puel may instruct his wingers to switch less often than usual.

With the exception of the wingers on either side potentially switching, it should be a game of few tactical surprises. Lyon’s shape will become a 4-1-4-1 without the ball and they will be conservative in pushing men forward to attack. Bayern’s weakness is that their wingers don’t track back effectively, but Lyon’s full-backs will have to be very brave to get forward, since Bayern are excellent at exploiting space in behind. Moving one central midfielder slightly deeper and closer to Toulalan may be useful, since Bayern’s midfield two sit very deep.

Bayern will look to play their normal game, getting the ball to their wingers and relying on them to create. If Lyon stop those two, they have a chance.

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