Friday, June 9, 2023

Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona: Three keys to victory for Xavi’s men as they face potential Champions League exit

Barcelona will fight for their UEFA Champions League lives on Wednesday on Paramount+ when they visit giants Bayern Munich in Group E action. Barca are staring a group-stage exit right in the face. With seven points in the group, two more than Benfica, they’ll advance for sure by either winning or if Benfica fail to win. But a draw combined with a Benfica victory will see Barca crash out due to the Portuguese side holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Now they have to potentially get a result against a club that has had their number for years, putting the pressure on Xavi as he looks to right the Catalan ship. 

Here are three keys to victory for Barca entering this 3 p.m. ET showdown on Wednesday:

Face a back-up filled Bayern to have a chance

Let’s be honest, even with Lionel Messi, Barca had very little chance against Bayern in recent years. With him no plying his trade with PSG, it feels like no chance, at least if they’re facing a full-strength Bayern. But the Bavarians have cruised to winning the group with a 5-0-0 record, scoring 19 goals and conceding just three. Because they have won so comfortably, we may just see a backup-filled team here for Julian Nagelsmann’s men. Of course, even Bayern’s backups are strong, but for Barca to have a shot at winning, they are likely going to need some of Bayern’s best players to sit this one out, and I think they will. Why risk a situation like Manchester City, who lost Kyle Walker to a red card for their round of 16 first leg after his silly actions on Tuesday? Plain and simple, this Barca team haven’t been good enough to beat Real Betis and Celta Vigo in the past month, let alone mighty Bayern.

They are going to need Bayern’s best players  to sit the majority of this one out, or they are likely headed for defeat. 

Sharper touches at the back to avoid Dortmund disaster

Just watching Bayern’s last game will teach Barca plenty. The Bavarians applied plenty of pressure on Dortmund in the 3-2 win and that left the team shaky at the back. Poor touches, poor clearances and just horrible execution gifted Bayern goal after goal. Take a look at an example:

Against Bayern, Barca have to do a better job of getting the ball out of the box, either by clearances or sharper passes towards the wing. The German side regularly punishes everybody they play, so you can’t give them anything if you want to have any chance of getting something. 

As a result, Sergio Busquets might need to sit a bit deeper are prioritize being a quick outlet when the pressure is applied, sacrificing a bit of positioning in the middle.

Push a winger more centrally to work with Depay

Memphis Depay needs a bit of help, and with Barca’s lack of size in attack, it certainly feels like causing damage in the air via the wings is unlikely to happen. Might we see Xavi look to move a winger a tad more centrally to combine with the Dutchman? Philippe Coutinho would make a lot of sense in that role, going up against his former club and being familiar with the tendencies of the players. Ousmane Dembele is another option there, especially if Busquets sits deeper, needing somebody to create in the attacking midfield position. Coutinho would be the pick for me, considering his ability to strike from deep. Expect to see a lot of movement in attack and for them not to try to go down the wings much unless it is with their fullbacks.

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