Bayern Munich kickstart their UEFA Champions League knockout campaign on Tuesday when they face Lazio at Stadio Olimpico.
Things have gone sour for Bayern Munich following their triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup. They have dropped points in back to back Bundesliga matches, losing their most recent game against Eintracht Frankfurt. Such run of form has allowed RB Leipzig to creep up on the Bundesliga league leaders, with the title race still pretty much on.
The Bavarians, though, are looking to shift their attention towards the UEFA Champions League for now, as they travel to Stadio Olimpico to face Lazio on Tuesday. The current holders are hoping to gain the advantage heading into the second leg by bagging a couple of away goals that could certainly put them in the ascendancy.
Lazio, though, are no slouch. They are pretty much in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A, alongside Roma, Juventus and Atalanta and have been in excellent form recently. In fact, the recent defeat to league leaders Inter Milan was their only one in their last eight league matches – a run of form that has helped them gain the advantage over rivals Juventus and Napoli.
As far as the Champions League is concerned, Lazio finished second to Borussia Dortmund in Group F, but along with Bayern Munich, they were one of only four teams to remain unbeaten in the group stages. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at their chances of causing an upset against the Bundesliga giants in this enticing contest in the Champions League this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
Lazio would have taken notes from Bayern’s recent defeat to Frankfurt, which indicated how Simone Inzaghi’s three-man backline could work its magic against the Bavarian. The Italians, though, don’t have as much offensive firepower as Frankfurt, and often tend to rely heavily on the services of star striker Ciro Immobile.
Ciro Immobile: "Facing the best gives you satisfaction and extra motivation. Obviously, it will be a very difficult game. We will try to do our best in the two legs, aware that we won't change our style of play. We will always do what we know [UEFA] pic.twitter.com/E8ErTGulTA
— Sextuple winners 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆 (@iMiaSanMia) February 22, 2021
Another deviation from SGE’s tactics is that Inzaghi prefers a 3-5-2 with two strikers playing upfront. The presence of Immobile and Joaquin Correa should strengthen their first line of press. But, the lack of two number tens may see them struggle to exploit Bayern’s high defensive line, although it won’t be surprising to see Correa drop deep and feature alongside Luis Alberto in the advanced midfield roles.
Either way, Alberto will have a major responsibility in terms of providing the creative essence in Lazio’s game, especially as he will be partnered by the likes of Lucas Leiva and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. It will be interesting to see how the latter cope with the technically astute nature of the Bayern Munich midfielders.
Elsewhere, Inzaghi should continue with Adam Marusic in the right-sided wingback role but could be tempted to bring in a more unpredictable Mohamed Fares on the opposite flank. The 25-year-old is likely to play a key role in making deadly runs in behind the Bayern Munich backline, exploiting Niklas Sule’s lack of space.
And finally, in the defensive department, Inzaghi is set to persist with the three-man backline of Patric, Mateo Musacchio and Francesco Acerbi as they look to provide cover for Pepe Reina in goal. The veteran goalkeeper will be looking forward to facing his former club, having played for the Bavarians for a year under Pep Guardiola.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Reina; Patric, Musacchio, Acerbi; Marusin, Milinkovic-Savic, Alberto, Leiva, Fares; Correa, Immobile
Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick was blessed with the return of Leon Goretzka on the weekend but continues to miss out on the services of Thomas Muller and Benjamin Pavard due to Covid-19.
Pavard’s absence has caused a lot of problems for the German tactician and while Bouna Sarr does remain an option, he is likely to persist with Niklas Sule. There might still be a change from the setup that faced Eintracht Frankfurt though, as Flick welcomes Lucas Hernandez in central defence.
Flick on Lazio: "We still have their games against Dortmund in the back of our minds, they played very well. Miro (Klose) can always help us, not only against Lazio. He always has good input. He has played with some of their players and he knows the coach" pic.twitter.com/XMD5Jd1C9C
— Sextuple winners 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆 (@iMiaSanMia) February 22, 2021
The Frenchman’s pace and athleticism could be much more useful for Bayern as he renews his central defensive partnership with Jerome Boateng. Meanwhile, Alphonso Davies is a shoo-in at left-back and the Canadian international could be integral in Bayern’s offensive game as they are already lacking firepower in the offensive department.
There could be certain adjustments in the midfield unit as well, due to the absence of Corentin Tolisso and Muller. Joshua Kimmich, in particular, is a favourite to replace Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in the number ten role, with Leon Goretzka and David Alaba operating in the double pivot.
Flick did confirm in his press conference that Jamal Musiala is an option. Unfortunately, the youngster may once again get ignored as Bayern continue with Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman in the wide attacking roles. The attack itself should be spearheaded by none other than Robert Lewandowski.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Sule, Boateng, Hernandez, Davies; Goretzka, Alaba; Sane, Kimmich, Coman; Lewandowski
- Bayern Munich have reached the Champions League quarter-finals or better in eight of the last nine seasons.
- The six-time European champions are unbeaten in their last 16 away matches in the competition, dating back to Matchday 1 of the 2017/18 groups.
- Last year’s UCL final hero Kingsley Coman is Bayern’s joint top-scorer in this year’s competition alongside Robert Lewandowski, with the pair both on three goals.
- Bayern Munich have faced Italian opposition on 31 previous occasions (W13, D7, L11). Their most recent trip to Italy ended in a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the last-16 stage against Juventus in 2015/16. Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben scored the goals that night, with Bayern eventually prevailing by winning the return leg 4-2 after extra-time.
- Bayern Munich recorded their joint biggest away victory in UEFA competition at the Stadio Olimpico, beating Lazio’s city rivals Roma 7-1 in the 2014/15 Champions League groups.
Player to Watch
With Muller, Tolisso and Serge Gnabry out injured, Joshua Kimmich has to come to the rescue for FC Bayern this midweek. He is tipped to feature in the attacking midfield role, where his composure on the ball coupled with his ability to provide those useful forward passes could be essential to Bayern’s approach play.
However, the German international is set to be dealt with a stern against the likes of Leiva and Milinkovic-Savic, so his performance could go a long way in shaping FCB’s fate in this crucial first leg encounter. The Italian, though, need to keep a close eye on the midfielder, especially when it comes to conceding silly freekicks as Kimmich is indeed quite proficient in creating chances from dead-ball situations.
Lazio 1-2 Bayern Munich
Lazio are certain to score against a depleted Bayern Munich defence that hasn’t performed all too well in recent weeks. A lot could depend on how they plan to exploit the spaces that will be left vacant onces the Bavarians dominate possession as their defensive line does like to operate in an advanced position.
However, it is fair to point out that Leroy Sane is slowly getting back to his best while Goretzka has finally returned from his brief spell on the sidelines. It makes Bayern the undisputed favourites heading into this game, although they may win only by a small margin against their Italian rivals this midweek.