Bayern Munich have one foot in the Champions League final after thrashing a insipid Barcelona side 4-0.
Here are the reasons why Barcelona lost:
1. Unfit Messi
Lionel Messi is Barcelona's go to guy and it is his mazy runs that open up many avenues for attack. All those runs were absent from his game on Tuesday, as he looked a shadow of himself.
2. Untested central defence
Barcelona's defence has been below par this season. They once went on a spell of conceding for 10 consecutive games. Against lesser opposition they outscored them. But this Bayern Munich side took advantage of a unfamiliar partnership at the centre of the defence.
3. Weaknesses at set pieces
The first two goals came from set pieces and this exposed Barcelona's weakness in this area. Other than Gerard Pique they lack any sort of physical presence at set pieces and that was exploited by the Bayern side who took care to avoid Pique. The rest was too easy.
4. Missing Puyol
When Carles Puyol and Pique play together, Puyol plays the role of the senior defender and whenever Pique steps up to join attack Puyol organises the defence to protect against counter-attacks. But his absence was felt when Marc Bartra was the one entrusted with this responsibility on the night.
5. Ruthless Bayern
Bayern Munich were ruthless in front of goal, taking their chances in clinical fashion. Be it Thomas Muller's brace, Mario Gomez's tap-in or Arjen Robben's curler, Bayern took their opportunity whenever it was presented to them.
6. Sweeper Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger played probably the best game of his life so far. Whenever Bayern were playing out from the back he often slotted in as an additional centre-back and carried the ball to the midfield, from where he orchestrated the attacks.
7. Strategic fouling
Bayern also committed a lot of tactical fouls very high up the pitch to put Barcelona's players off their rhythmn. Javi Martinez and Schweinsteiger were very clever in committing fouls and this results in disrupting Barcelona's passing, which frustrated them.
8. Wing wizardry
In Robben and Franck Ribery, Bayern have probably the best wingers in the game today. And in Tuesday night's game both were hugging their respective touchlines. Neither Dani Alves or Jordi Alba are great defenders - both are more comfortable attacking - and against a quality opposition they came up painfully short.
9. Overcrowding the midfield
One other key aspect of the game was overcrowding of the midfield area by Bayern. Both Ribery and Robben worked their socks off. What was also interesting is the both Muller and Gomez, who was playing as striker, dropped back to help Bayern out in midfield. This effectively reduced the space for Iniesta and Xavi to work their magic.
10. No Plan B for Barcelona
Barcelona do not have a Plan B for their famous tiki-taka. On days like Tuesday, when their usual game-play is not working, they do not possess a means to change their game style. There was also no other alternative on their bench.
All the above factors contributed to Bayern landing a crushing blow to Barcelona's Champions League hopes. Overcoming this deficit might prove to be a bridge too far for this Barcelona side.
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