Three errors in defence saw Manchester City give away three points to Bayern Munich at home – where they tore their red neighbour apart 10 days ago. While they are very likely to get past the group stage this year, as Bayern’s head coach Pep Guardiola suggested, there are more to worry about if Manuel Pellegrini is to fulfill the European ambition at Etihad Stadium – main reason why he replaced the new Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini.
No one will be too surprised at Bayern dominating possession. Pep Guardiola’s belief will not change with where he coaches. In fact, the Bundesliga Champion may have executed the Tiki-taka football closer to perfection.
Compared to the false no.9 in Barcelona, Thomas Muller provides mobility and size as a central striker and successfully kept Kompany and Nastasic tiptoeing for the whole match. The strong bonding between Ribery, Robben and Muller makes Bayern’s attack even more forceful and formidable.
Assigning Philipp Lahm as the defensive midfielder was another clever twist that further strengthens the formation. Having been employed more as a full-back in his career, the 29-year-old versatile defender shines in midfield with his sense of positioning, accurate tackling, as well as his passing ability. His presence encourages Alaba and Rafinha to be more advancing on both flanks, offering extra flexibility in attack to Ribery and Robben.
Philipp Lahm and the always energetic Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos enjoyed a complete victory over Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, which they must also thank Pellegrini for his questionable tactics. Guardiola might struggle to recall the last time in Europe he faced a four-man midfield consisting of two attacking wingers. You can tell from Samir Nasri’s frustration that he could not play his natural game, so was Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero. Ultimately, they could not figure out a way to spark off their engine in midfield — Yaya Toure, hence very little supply was provided to the two strikers, who ran out of gas spending most of the match chasing after opponents. More sarcastically, City pulled one back when defensive winger James Milner and playmaker David Silva were introduced to restore a five-man midfield line.
If Pellegrini was to be blamed for losing the battle in midfield, Joe Hart and Gael Clichy would definitely be the scapegoats for the conceded goals. Joe Hart’s weak hands would worry England’s fans, as their no.1 goalkeeper could not even prevent Robben’s shot with his weaker foot from scoring at the near post. Clichy has shown significant improvement in defence in the past two seasons, but it was his complacency which allowed Thomas Muller to beat the offside trap, eventually Joe Hart, with ease. Having no major signings in defence this off-season, City fans will still need to bank on the susceptible Clichy and Kolarov in left back.
Guardiola will depart England as a happy man, although guarding against complacency will be on his agenda. Negredo’s brilliant effort left Neuer with no chance, but it all began with Bayern’s carelessness in taking care of the ball in their own half. Further woes were concluded with Jerome Boateng’s send-off. This would have limited impact to Bayern’s European campaign, with their next match playing at home against Plzen, but Guardiola will strive to eliminate all the weaknesses to make Bayern the first ever team to retain Champions League trophy.
Meanwhile, Pellegrini will hope to re-establish his reputation in Europe. His previous success with Malaga and Villareal is yet to be reflected in Manchester, after being completely outshone tactically at home. Their next away match at Moscow could be decisive to their faith in Europe this season, but before all of this, restoring winning order will be the priority.
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