It was around the 68 minute mark that Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri decided to bring on Stefano Sturaro for Sami Khedira in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich. The Turin side were trailing two goals to one at this stage. Seven minutes and another substitution later, Juventus were on level terms. The two substitutes, Alvaro Morata and Sturaro, had combined brilliantly to score the equaliser, with the former having been on the pitch for just one minute.
The 68 minute mark would prove crucial in the second leg as well. This time it was Juventus who led by two goals when Khedira was hauled off for Sturaro. Morata was substituted for Mario Mandzukic four minutes later and the game turned on its head.
Juventus had no one up front to counter-attack and their presence in midfield had suddenly gone missing. Robert Lewandowski pegged one back a minute after Morata’s substitution, and from that point on, things went spiralling downwards for Juventus, who were on the receiving end of three more goals before the night was done. The substitutions, which proved to be a boon in the first leg, turned out to be fatal in the second.
Bayern vs Juventus: Formation and starting lineups
What made the Old Lady tick before the substitutions?
Juventus’s gameplan was largely based on pressing Bayern’s makeshift backline. And if Bayern made it into their half, Morata maintained his position near the half-way line to counter-attack when the opportunity presented itself. These two tactics greatly impacted Bayern’s play. Lacking confidence on the ball, the two Bayern centre-backs — Joshua Kimmich and Medhi Benatia — were always immediately put under pressure, mainly by Khedira, Morata and Paul Pogba, making it difficult for Bayern to play out from the back.
Juventus managed to recover the ball 9 times in Bayern’s half before the substitutions were made. Bayern’s high line and possession play was also perfect for Morata, who is known for his direct running. Morata ran through the heart of Bayern’s team before slipping in a ball for Juan Cuadrado, who made no mistake to score the Old Lady’s second goal of the night.
Kimmich and Benatia lack speed, and found it very hard to contain the pacey Morata. The Spaniard was successful in completing 4 out of the 6 take-ons he attempted before being substituted on the night.
Ball recoveries in Bayern’s half before substitutions
Morata take-ons in the entire match
Masters in the art of defending — having just conceded 3 goals in 2016 (2 in the first leg) — Juventus found it fairly comfortable to contain Bayern, who had only 4 players in advanced attacking positions, with Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal trying to dictate play from the centre. With Morata keeping the centre-backs busy and Pogba and Cuadrado keeping the full-backs in check, Bayern — in spite of all their possession — were only able to muster two tame shots on target.
How did the substitutes alter the game?
Guardiola responded by bringing on Juan Bernat in place of Benatia, and moving David Alaba to the centre of defence. This served two purposes: Alaba could match Morata for pace and counter his direct running, and Bayern would be more comfortable playing out from the back.
The Bayern boss also changed the shape from a conventional 4-2-3-1, where the full-backs overlap, to his own adaptation in which they drift inside. Kingsley Coman was also brought on for an ineffective Alonso to stretch the play. Allegri responded by bringing on Sturaro and Mandzukic in place of Khedira and Morata, so as to maintain the same intensity levels throughout the game.
It goes without saying that Paulo Dybala would have been a more like-for-like switch for Morata, but his injury meant that Mandzukic got the nod. Efficient with his back to goal and lacking in pace, the Croatian was unable to bring his strengths into the game and failed to contribute anything of note.
Without having to worry about Morata’s pace any longer, the Bayern centre-backs were more comfortable distributing play from the back and joining in the attack when possible. Sturaro, on the other hand, was completely caught in transition in a match played with high intensity. The pressing from midfield was no longer there, and Juventus were pegged back deep in their own half.
After the substitutions, there were no interceptions or ball recoveries in Bayern’s half. Douglas Costa, who was operating centrally, found ample space to receive and distribute play. Coman also contributed with a goal and an assist.
Costa able to distribute play after substitutions
The goals against Juventus were the Bianconeri‘s own doing, as the substitutes failed to find the rhythm to match the game’s intensity. However, Allegri has to be given credit for matching Bayern in terms of tactics over the two legs. Had Dybala and Claudio Marchisio been available, one wonders whether Allegri would have had enough ammunition left to finish the job he brilliantly started.