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How exactly can Bayern Munich defend against Lionel Messi?

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Bayern Munich played well tactically against FC Barcelona but they couldn't quite Lionel Messi down

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Bayern Munich was heavily defeated by FC Barcelona. 3-0 is always a rough scoreline, and there's a lot of blame being tossed around by many different folks and sources. But, at the end of the day, it wasn't Pep Guardiola's innovative (and some might say crazy) tactics to start the game that lost this match. It wasn't the myriad injuries, most of them to their very best players. It wasn't the fact that after the 77th minute Bayern Munich had to chase the game down a goal and conceded two more.

From a more global perspective, Bayern Munich did a fantastic job of shutting down the Barcelona attack yesterday. Suarez and Neymar were largely silent with the exception of a few breakaways when the Bayern offside trap failed. The Barcelona midfield was harassed and exhausted after 70 minutes of double duty while outnumbered in the middle which is why Ivan Rakitic was the first substitutions for Luis Enrique as he tried to maintain his two goal lead.

Jordi Alba was relatively quiet after the first 15 minutes as he was tied down by the way Thomas Müller pushed Bayern's attacks down the right wing. Dani Alves enjoyed freedom as he, Suarez, and Messi swarmed over Juan Bernat, who was pulling double defensive duty against some of Barcelona's best attackers and holding his own.

Despite all those good highlights though, at the simplest level, Bayern Munich lost this game because Lionel Messi is one of the most outstanding football players on the planet. We all know this. We've all seen the exploits.

But, consider just how Bayern Munich conceded their first two goals. Bernat got caught in a press on the wing, turned over the ball, and Messi found two inches of space while being pressured from two directions before drilling a laser blast just inside the bottom corner. Then, minutes later, Jerome Boateng had a bead on Messi closing down his angle on goal, forcing him straight at the arms of Neuer while the rest of the Bayern defense had the goal covered. Messi was in theory going nowhere -- and then Messi juked Boateng out of his shorts to the point where he moved in two directions at once and just fell over. The little Argentine chipped Neuer as if he were on a Sunday stroll.

With a solid tactical platform under their feet, Bayern really deserved to come out of this match with a draw on paper. Unfortunately for Bayern, the difference between deserved and earned is the same as the difference between theoretical and practical. Messi forced their hand and that needs to be dealt with come next Tuesday. Bayern enjoyed great success two seasons ago, when they man marked him out of the match, and they similarly enjoyed success for the first 15-20 minutes yesterday as well.  It can be done, but the real question is does Bayern Munich have any defensive players capable of sticking to him like glue for a full 90 minutes?