Juventus named their strongest available lineup in a game they really could not afford to lose.
Bayern’s injury crisis meant that Vidal deputised for Alonso in a deep-lying midfield role while Kimmich and Alaba formed a makeshift centre-back pairing.
Team Lineups- Juventus vs Bayern
Pep Guardiola and his Bayern team were at their scintillating best against Juventus. Only Pep can make a team line up in a 4-3-3, and change shapes multiple times to a 5-2-2-1 or a 3-4-3 depending on the way you see it. The idea was to split the field laterally into 2 halves with the imaginary line drawn from Neuer through Vidal to Lewandowski. The rest of the players on each side could interchange in the same half depending on the relative position of the players on their side.
How Bayern seperated the field vertically (the main separation is shown by the thick line), with players allowed to interchange along thin vertical lines on their respective half
Pep set out his team in a similar way as against Arsenal. Players were asked to stretch the field as well as compress it at the same time. If Robben and Costa were hugging the touchline, the full-backs were asked to bomb inwards while Muller and Thiago would be ahead of them but never in the same vertical line. This way of attacking meant that Juventus had to remain highly alert and functional both mentally and physically.
Evra and Lichtsteiner were stretched away from their centre-backs by Robben and Costa, Pogba and Khedira were pulled back by Muller and Thiago, while Mandzukic and Cuadrado had to deal with the full-backs charging inwards. The Juventus team were pushed so further back in the first half that the Bayern centre-backs were playing balls from inside Juve’s half. The frequent interchanging of the Bavarians also tested Juve’s defensive coordination. Hence, if Robben ran infield, Evra had to decide whether to run infield with Robben or stay back to cover Lahm who would take Robben’s position to stretch the field. If there was a miscommunication between any 2 Juve players, then one of the Bayern players would be through. The fact that Juve came back after going two goals down and suffering unusual amounts of stress — both mentally and physically — speaks volumes of their resilience.
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Juve’s unorthodox press
The first goal back was a classic example of Juve’s perseverance as they hounded Bayern in their own half. The old lady pressed aggressively with their own interchanges defensively — a frequent one being Pogba pressing Vidal at the centre of the pitch. Juve had to make sure that Pogba, Dybala and Mandzukic were not alone in this pressing and pushed their entire defensive line up. This was another brave move as Bonucci and Barzagli are traditional centre-backs and are comfortable in a deep defensive line. It was interesting to note that there was no apparent shape to the pressing, it was just the urge to get the ball back as soon as possible. There was a moment when Cuadrado (who was playing on the opposite side), Morata and Mandzukic were all running behind Robben in Bayern’s half — this exemplified their bravery and perseverance in the second half.
The switch to 4-3-3 also helped Juventus after Allegri took off an ineffective Khedira for Stuaro. Pogba took his preferred central role instead of shuttling back and forth towards the left. Though the Bavarians were continually dominant, Juve’s irresistible pressing finally paid off when Stuaro got at the end of a Morata pull back. After levelling the scores, Juve continued to hunt the ball with a renewed sense of confidence.
It is always a challenge coming up against a Pep Guardiola team at this stage of the competition. Juve deserve immense credit for continuing to believe in themselves despite chasing shadows for the best part of 60 minutes. The unorthodox pressing paid off and the old lady can now travel to the Allianz Arena with their heads held high.