It's been a roller coaster of a season for Bayern Munich, who have steamrolled the competition in the Bundesliga but generally left something to be desired in the Champions League. The German giants have a commanding 20-point lead in their domestic competition, but progressed to the last eight of Europe's elite club tournament having suffered two losses. Their most recent was a 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal in the second leg of the Round of 16, a fixture that almost saw the Bavarians eliminated despite their 3-1 first-leg win.
On Tuesday, however, Bayern silenced their doubters with a 2-0 win over Juventus in the quarterfinals. The result left Juve with a chance in the second leg, especially as they play as hosts. But the flow of play was so one-sided, it's difficult to see any way out for the Turin side.
Bayern were the better side tactically and technically, and their experience and pedigree made a huge difference in Tuesday's game. The hosts' high pressing exploited weaknesses in Juve's 3-5-2 formation: centre-backs Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini were constantly harassed and commonly misplaced the ball in dangerous areas. Bonucci was the most wasteful man in possession for both sides—misplacing 15 passes—while in one instance, Barzagli cleared the ball directly to Arjen Robben just outside the six-yard box.
Out wide, Bayern had a numerical advantage on both flanks, as they played with both full-backs and wingers while Juve used only a pair of wing-backs. The deep-playing architect of Juve's attack, Andrea Pirlo, was stifled all game and completed just 31 out of 41 attempted passes; he had to hoof the ball away from his own end line in the early exchanges, and his misplaced pass preceded David Alaba's opener.
Tactics played a big role, but there was a distinct difference in personal class on the night. The pace of Alaba, Luiz Gustavo, Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic was just too much for the visitors to deal with. Arturo Vidal was the only Juventus midfielder up for the physical task at hand as Pirlo looked every bit a man who will turn 34 in just over a month.
Claudio Marchisio, Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella may as well not have even made the trip to Munich; the three were woefully isolated and had just 69 touches among them. This figure was exceeded by each of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and Philipp Lahm.
Bayern were simply much, much more aggressive than Juve. They regularly won the ball in their attacking half, and swarmed any Bianconeri player who tried to keep the ball for more than a moment. In this regard, the hosts' turned a full 180 degrees from their second-leg performance against Arsenal. The fact that the Bavarians were able to so easily swallow the early loss of Toni Kroos due to injury is just a further testament to their individual quality. Arjen Robben added a different dimension following his introduction, and the hosts adapted very well.
A critical factor that cannot be underestimated is that Bayern managed to keep a clean sheet. In eight previous games, they had only held Lille scoreless. Having conceded twice at home in their last Champions League match, they needed not only a good result overall, but to hold their opponents scoreless. And that they did: Juve didn't have one clear look at goal all game.
If Bayern are to win the Champions League, it won't be due to any tactical or technical advantage. Their squad may be as good as any, but the argument cannot be made that it's decisively the best among the teams remaining in the Champions League. Nor can it be claimed that Jupp Heynckes is decisively the more clever coach.
One factor Bayern had on their side on Tuesday was a superior desire bred of far greater experience. They've played in two Champions League finals in three seasons. Although neither ended in a win, both were influential to Tuesday's result. Bayern played comfortably; Juve were easily flustered and struggled to settle. Perhaps this time, experience and desire can make the difference for Bayern as they aim to win the Champions League for the first time in 12 years.
There are still 90 minutes to be played in Turin and anything can happen. Bayern know this as well as anyone, having nearly blown a 3-1 advantage over Arsenal. Still, Tuesday's result was a huge one for the German side: when it mattered most, against their toughest opponents yet and especially following their recent scare, they showed their quality. When they awaken tomorrow morning, many critics will still be picking pieces of their shoes from their mouths.
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