Bayern Munich face one of their toughest challenges in this new season as they lock horns with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, in the UEFA Champions League.
Reigning European champions Bayern Munich kickstart their title defence on Wednesday, as they play hosts to Atletico Madrid at the Allianz Arena. The Bavarians won the treble last season, which was followed by the DFL Supercup and the UEFA Supercup this summer, meaning they have secured every silverware possible over the past 12 months.
However, there are growing worries over Bayern’s defensive solidity as they notably failed to keep a clean sheet even against newly-promoted Arminia Bielefeld. They also succumbed to a 4-1 defeat to TSG Hoffenheim while almost allowing Borussia Dortmund to make an extraordinary comeback in the DFL Supercup.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will be well aware of these problems when they travel to Allianz Arena this midweek. However, they haven’t had a particularly promising start to the season either, notably being held by Huesca and Villarreal after a promising 6-1 win over Granada in the opening match.
Los Colchoneros did secure a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo in their last match but are far from perfect. So the onus will still be on Simeone to come up with a tactical masterclass against this high pressing FC Bayern side, coached by Hansi Flick. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their highly anticipated matchup in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
Tactics & Team News
Joshua Kimmich was the most notable absentee in Bayern Munich’s game against Arminia Bielefeld. He was given a breather as his partner was expecting a baby, though the midfielder is set to be back this midweek. He is expected to reclaim his position alongside Leon Goretzka in the double-pivot, with Corentin Tolisso making way.
In defence, fielding Jerome Boateng could be a risk since he may not have the pace necessary to deal with the likes of Joao Felix. So we might witness Niklas Sule and David Alaba once again featuring at the heart of Bayern Munich’s four-man backline with Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard occupying the wide defensive roles.
Davies, in particular, is under pressure this season following the emergence of Lucas Hernandez. Bayern Munich fans will hope that the Canadian can showcase his pace and reclaim his place as a regular at left-back.
In the attack, Flick is missing out on the services of new signing Leroy Sane due to a knock. He does have loads of options, however, including other new signings such as Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Douglas Costa as well as youngster Jamal Musiala.
That said, Flick is unlikely to shift away from his tried and tested creative trifecta of Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman. They are expected to provide the creative supply to Robert Lewandowski.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Sule, Alaba, Davies; Kimmich, Goretzka; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowski.
Diego Costa is a massive doubt for Atletico Madrid heading into this fixture. The ex-Chelsea striker picked up a thigh injury in the last game, though it shouldn’t create much of a dilemma for Simeone in terms of team selection as the Argentine is most likely to deploy Luis Suarez alongside Joao Felix, at the tip of Atleti’s 4-4-2.
Speaking of the 4-4-2, the two banks of four is widely known to provide maximum protection against teams who like to play with possession. However, it won’t be surprising to see Simeone embracing the Seb Hoeness tactic by leaving a massive gap in between the lines, with the defenders playing out from the back and attackers operating around the shoulders of the Bayern Munich defenders.
Defenders like Stefan Savic and Felipe may not be the best passers in world football, but they are capable of threading long balls that could catch Bayern out on the counter, especially given how high they operate.
Besides, the Spanish giants have gifted fullbacks like Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi so it will be interesting to see how they plan to stop the mighty Bavarian attack this midweek.
One thing is for certain – the game will be contested in the middle of the park and that is why players like Lucas Torreira, Koke and Saul Niguez, in Atletico’s second line of press could be essential on Wednesday.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Felipe, Lodi; Correa, Koke, Torreira, Saul; Felix, Suarez.
- Robert Lewandowski was the top scorer in the Champions League last season with 15 goals. Suarez scored five for Barcelona before his summer move to Atletico.
- Bayern Munich left-back Hernandez played more than 100 games with Atletico – winning a UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup along the way – before moving to the Allianz Arena last summer.
- Alphonso Davies is Hernandez’s primary competition in the side. Last season he had four assists in eight games on the way to becoming the first Canadian to win the Champions League.
- Atletico Madrid were runners up in this competition in 2014 and 2016. Bayern Munich completed the continental treble last term, becoming six-time European champions in the process.
- Bayern beat Atletico in the 1974 European Cup final. Their all-time head-to-head record reads: three wins for Bayern, two for Atleti, with one draw.
Player to Watch
There is no doubt that all eyes will be on Robert Lewandowski, who was the top scorer of this competition last season with 15 goals. His heroics, not only in the group stages but also in the knockout stages were inspiring to say at the least, as it eventually helped Bayern Munich secure a famous treble.
Lewandowski seemed to have continued his lethal goalscoring form this season as well, netting seven goals in six matches, two of which came in the recent win over Arminia. However, what has made him a particularly useful player is his improved creative ability, with the Pole notably registering four assists in all competitions.
Lewandowski’s chance creation, combined with his lethal finishing, therefore, could be critical for Bayern Munich as they look to kickstart their Champions League on a positive note.
Bayern Munich 1-0 Atletico Madrid
Bayern Munich are and should be the undisputed favourites heading into this game. However, they could find it a little difficult to stroll through this Atleti defence, though their opponents could have preferred a bit more firepower upfront. We are expecting a 1-0 win for the Bavarians.