Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich team contested one of the best games in the Champions League this season, a game which neutrals could call a classic.
Abruptly ended by two world class goals from the world's greatest player, Lionel Messi, the game ebbed and flowed in both team's directions. It must be argued however that the Guardiola effect was ruled out and nullified by the tactics of his opposite manager, Luis Enrique.
From the outside looking in
Some neutrals might say Messi won the game for Barcelona, which would be difficult to argue against considering he scored the first and second goals which subsequently led to the third from Neymar, which put the tie to bed. However, with that as it may be, it is worth considering the flaw in Guardiola's tactics, and possible nativity of his decisions on the night.
From the beginning of the match we could see that Guardiola had demanded a high press from his team; push the defensive line up the pitch and work hard to put pressure on the Barcelona players at the back. Then when they make a mistake, win the ball and counter, if that fails hold onto possession. This is the Guardiola way, and he will not stray from his philosophy.
Issues with the tactic
The problem with such a tactic was evident with the fact that neither Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery were on the pitch. What this meant was that Bayern Munich's main threat on the counter attack were to be no problem for Enrique's Barcelona.
The back four of Barca were magnificent and they nullified all attack from the Bayern team with constant pressure from the excellent Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique. Enrique knew that he had the edge with his wide men and the support and attacking prowess of both Jordi Alba and Dani Alves meant Bayern were constantly defending their lines.
Ultimately, Guardiola's tactics were out-thought and outplayed by Enrique's team, and having Messi on the pitch to hammer the nail in the coffin was imperative. Bayern had a total of zero shots on target in the entire match.
What this then leaves us with is a second leg which looks all but out of the reach of Guardiola's men. History will tell us that he will not change his tactics, he's too proud of his philosophy to diverge from that road. Barcelona have a three goal cushion going into the second leg in the Allianz Arena and not many would argue this could be overturned.
Therefore it is right to question Guardiola's tactics on the night. His decision to man mark Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez with his back three of Jerome Boateng, Rafinha and Mehdi Benatia was a recipe for disaster. Taking off Thomas Muller was another mistake and this proved to be the case, with the ineffective Mario Gotze unable to beat the Barcelona defence.
As the third goal edged past Bayern's Manuel Neuer in the goal, Guardiola's face resembled that of a man who knew the dream was over. His romantic idea of playing the "Barcelona way" with his under strength Bayern team in the Nou Camp is a decision which he will have to live with until next season, where he will hope to rectify his many mistakes from last night.
Last chance saloon
If there is to be any glimmer of hope for Bayern Munich, they would have to have both Robben and Ribery on the pitch in the Allianz Arena. With the season ending injury to Robben it is not a possibility.
Guardiola must come up with a plan B, yet this seems unlikely if we are to follow the past. Having a philosophy is one thing, but not having a back up plan is a flaw which will haunt Guardiola and his teams until he decides to alter his ideas and forget his ego.
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