Bayern Munich insist the quarter-final tie is not over. “Juventus are not to be underestimated, so we are going to Turin very concentrated, as we know they will try to give it their all,” said Bayern chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“We are in a very good position now, but have not achieved anything so far. We need to score a goal there, then we should be through,” warned Bastian Schweinsteiger. Yet on first leg evidence, the Bavarians can feel comfortable with the advantage they have.
The 2-0 win was sealed thanks to a first minute David Alaba strike and Thomas Muller’s second half tap-in. Gianluigi Buffon and his Juventus teammates will feel aggrieved with the manner in which both goals were conceded. The first took a slight touch off Arturo Vidal to bamboozle the captain, while Buffon parried Luiz Gustavo’s drive into the path of Mario Mandzukic, who squared for Muller’s simple finish. The Croat did look offside, but Buffon won’t want to be watching that one back again. However, on balance, Juve can feel fortunate to be only two goals behind.
There was a spell following the opening goal in which Antonio Conte’s side dominated. That altered in odd circumstances, as an injured Toni Kroos made way for Arjen Robben. The Dutch winger was then instrumental in turning the tide Bayern’s way. He – and the advancing Philipp Lahm – gave Federico Peluso and Claudio Marchisio a torrid time in the first half and most Bayern chances originated from their right-hand side. Muller tucked inside and shackled Andrea Pirlo – one of many who had a poor game – while Franck Ribery caused problems on the other flank.
The work-rate of the trio, plus Mandzukic, was impressive. They pressed Juve and forced the Bianconeri back three into numerous mistakes. Normally Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are the source of many an attacking foray. Bayern shut down this avenue, never allowing the defence to settle. This forced Juve long and possession was frequently turned over. Passes were misplaced, players were caught dwelling in possession and the Germans were first to nearly every second ball. Conte’s men looked very un-Juve like throughout.
Schweinsteiger mentioned that “Juve played a very interesting formation which we don’t face in the Bundesliga at all,” but Bayern were generally comfortable in dealing with what the Old Lady threw at them. In contrast, against a quick-tempo side with creative wingers who stay high up the pitch – something not generally encountered in Serie A – Juve were caught out.
The Turin giants did show that when they pressured the Bayern defence they too looked uncomfortable. This didn’t happen nearly enough given the difficulties they had in pushing men forward for any sustained possession. Vidal was the best of the bunch, showing the determination required at this level and lacking in many of his teammates. He was Juve’s best attacking outlet and went close on three occasions, including a Manuel Neuer double save.
Yet Vidal and Stephan Lichtsteiner will miss the return clash in Turin due to suspension. Both were shown a yellow card, the Chilean for a handball and accumulation of fouls. The Swiss international’s card was puzzling. Charging into the penalty area he was knocked down by Dante. Was it penalty? Perhaps not. Was it a dive? Certainly not.
It means the Bianconeri must overturn a two-goal deficit at the Juventus Stadium next Wednesday. Failing to score an away goal makes their task an uphill one, as does going in without two regulars. Juve will need an early goal, but must be wary of the pace and creativity Bayern will possess on the counter-attack. Conte still believes. “We must prepare for the second leg, which will be very tough, but football can have surprises.” He’s called the Champions League a dream and now more than ever, Juve need their dream to become reality.