Juventus vs Bayern Munich (Champions League Quarter Final)

10/04/13

Juventus’ task his made harder by the suspensions to Arturo Vidal and Stephan Lichtsteiner, although Paul Pogba and Mauricio Isla should be able deputies. Antonio Conte faces the usual dilemma in attack having failed to settle on a favoured partnership all season. The selection of Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri was a surprise and a failure, so Mirko Vucinic should start in place of one of them to offer greater movement.

Bayern Munich were dominant in the first leg and should be disappointed not to take a larger lead to Turin. The injury to Toni Kroos would usually be a cause for concern for Jupp Heynckes, but the performance of Thomas Muller in his place would suggest Kroos won’t be missed.

As mentioned in the first leg preview (found here), and largely supported by the performance, Bayern appear to have the perfect shape and selection to counter the threat posed by Juventus. Both managers are loyal to their preferred systems so a repeat is expected, although Conte will surely need to make allowances for his side’s failure to get into the game in Germany. This analysis will consider how Juventus can alter their system to stifle Bayern and cause them problems in attack.

Possible line-ups.

Juventus’ usual 3-1-4-2 option.

Pogba Deep

Pogba’s introduction in place of Vidal robs Juventus of the Chilean’s attacking qualities, but arguably gives Conte greater defensive strength. With Andrea Pirlo and Juventus’ three-man defence struggling to deal with the movement of Muller, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben between the lines, Pogba offers the option of playing with a double pivot, a midfield destroyer alongside Pirlo, the creator.

This move would serve two purposes. Pogba has the strength and energy to occupy space in front of the defence and the defensive discipline to track runners from midfield that Pirlo lacks. However he also offers Pirlo greater freedom of movement and space. By having a holding midfielder alongside, Juventus’ playmaker can engineer more space in deep midfield, using Pogba as a decoy, or alternatively advance into midfield without leaving his defenders exposed.

The downside to the plan would be the loss of a player alongside Claudio Marchisio in the central midfield area, where he will become outnumbered by Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger. However this is where another addition from the first leg may prove useful…

Vucinic Deep

Conte’s pairing of Quagliarella and Matri in the first leg failed to offer Juventus either an attacking threat or a defensive base. Both players play as target men, looking to adopt central positions and contest direct balls forward, but the lack of a mobile partner denied them both a teammate to combine with. In defence neither play has the energy or workrate to either press Bayern’s centre backs consistently or drop into midfield to bolster the midfield.

Vucinic is a different player and far more versatile – he has the lateral movement to stretch Bayern’s back line and link up player, but also the ability to drop deeper to add numbers in midfield. Whether Pogba drops deep or not this could be a crucial difference, as Bayern look far too comfortable when Schweinsteiger and Martinez are allowed time on the ball.

Juventus' possible 4-3-1-2 option.

Juventus’ possible 4-3-1-2 option.

A Back Four?

Should Conte decide to dispense with Juventus’ usual system, as was rumoured prior to last week’s game, then a 4-4-2 variation could become an option. The substitution of Pogba for Federico Peluso after 75 minutes of the first leg suggested a switch to a back four, with Giorgio Chiellini moving to full back. This is certainly an option again, and Kwadwo Asamoah’s return from injury strengthens this prospect, being equally comfortable at left wing back or in a midfield role.

With Pogba, Marchisio and Pirlo all certain starters, and Conte lacking any genuine wide options, this would likely create a narrow diamond midfield with Marchisio possibly used as a dynamic attacking option shuttling between midfield and attack (his usual role, but with fewer defensive responsibilities). This should give Juventus the chance to dominate the midfield zone and allow Pirlo to engineer more space from which to create.

Bayern will certainly be more accustomed with the challenge of a back four than a back three, but it would at least provide greater protection against the German’s forward and wingers. Heynckes team is used to dominating possession, so faced with four central midfielders may cause them some discomfort, although they would still expect to have success out wide with full backs David Alaba and Philipp Lahm enjoy plenty of freedom.

Summary

It may be a little too early to declare the tie over, but Bayern’s two-goal lead and Juventus’ lack of an away goal suggests that it is the away sides tie to lose. Some first legs give the trailing manager encouragement, but Conte will surely be more convinced that he needs to alter something in order to achieve a positive result. Bayern have no reason to change and can play their usual game in the belief that they can overcome the Italian’s once again, but Juventus’ approach will be interesting. Conte’s side have plenty of quality, but can he find a system to overcome the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions?

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