With unlimited substitutions, Pep Guardiola fielded two starkly different sides in FC Bayern München's second Middle Eastern friendly. After getting one goal out of his side in the first half, Guardiola's guys flushed out the scoring chances they received after halftime, spraying seven goals sporadically throughout the second half.
Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, and Thiago Alcântara each scored a Doppelpack in the second half, each player showing the different ways they could score. Julian Green collected a goal and an assist himself, scoring in his second consecutive friendly with the senior side.
Guardiola featured the diamond in defense once again, this time Dante and Javier Martínez featuring with David Alaba and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. The Spanish gaffer also paired Claudio Pizarro and Mario Mandžukić up top in the first half, possibly hinting at how Robert Lewandowski would fit once he swaps his yellow kit for a red one.
A bigger scoreline usually provides a lot more to talk about, and the observations as vast as the amount of goals scored.
- The night-and-day halves can be chalked up simply to the personnel. Jérôme Boateng, Mandzukic and Rafinha were the players a lion share of regular pitch time during the hinrunde, and Martinez was playing once more as a center back. The biggest discrepancy in play might have been the reserves, though. Yilli Sallahi and Alessandro Schöpf both failed to put an imprint on the match, while Julian Green and Mitchell Weiser provided excellent service on the wings.
- The back four in the first half proved one thing: if Guardiola loses too many defenders at once, the defense will be in deep doo doo. Diego Contento, Rafinha, and Martínez may be able to fill in once in a blue moon, but all of them together is a recipe for a lot of chances. To their credit, they were able to hold their line and force four off-sides in the first half. Martínez looked like an out-of-position midfielder in defense, and Rafinha did not do much to help him at fullback. Contento's skill-set may fit in the Bundesliga, but still does not look like he could last at the next level. Today reiterated the importance of Dante and Boateng to the side.
- Guardiola reversed his front from a game ago, playing two strikers with a back four and playing two midfielders up front in a diamond defense. The swap resulted in captivating interplay between Mandzukic and Pizarro while also showcasing the rarely-seen finishing ability of Götze and Thiago. While more static, the first half partnership worked surprisingly well considering both Mandzukic and Pizarro could hold up the ball. The more dynamic option of Müller and Götze facilitated more midfield involvement in the second, which resulted in heaps of possession and chances.
- One of the old cliches in the book is comparing a young player to an older, established player. Still, watching Green and Xherdan Shaqiri reminded me of a younger Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben respectively. Shaqiri manned the right wing like Robben would, dribbling into the area, cutting inside, unleashing left-footed bombs, and finding the farpost run on the ground. Green manned the left similar to Ribery, an ambidextrous winger that can dribble circles around right backs, creating enough space to slot one far post. The competition is worth reiterating, but the young players look like the real deal.
- The diamond defense may have looked a bit different, but what is facinating is what stayed the same. Alaba and Højbjerg stayed in their respective roles, Alaba as a left center back and Højbjerg as the holding midfielder. While still experimentation, Guardiola may see interesting attributes in he could exploit out of the two.
Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger were suited up on the bench, a sign of an approaching return for the two. Daniel van Buyten, still rehabbing a thigh injury, was not in sight on the bench. Ribéry, Manuel Neuer, and Philipp Lahm were all in Switzerland at the FIFA Ballon d'Or presentation.
The final friendly match will be in Salzburg, Austria on Saturday as the Rekordmeisters take on Red Bull Salzburg, the club atop the Austrian Bundesliga table.
1:0 Pizarro (31')
2:0 Green (48')
3:0 Götze (58')
4:0 Müller (62')
5:0 Müller (65')
6:0 Thiago (83')
7:0 Götze (85')
8:0 Thiago (90')
First Half XI: Starke – Rafinha, Martínez, Boateng, Contento; Højbjerg; Shaqiri, Schöpf, Pizarro, Sallahi; Mandžukić
Second Half XI: Starke – Martínez, Dante, Alaba; Højbjerg; Weiser, Thiago, Kroos, Green; Götze, Müller
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