With our Champions League game against Barcelona imminent, we here at Bavarian Football Works caught up with Renato Goncalves of Barca Blaugranes to get his take on Bayern Munich and the game. The questions are lengthy and the answers even more so, so without further ado let's begin:
1. Aside from Messi, who do you think is Barcelona’s “main weapon” in this tie?
Your old friend Arturo Vidal! If you’re thinking Luis Suárez, it’s not. Suárez isn’t good anymore and he won’t be a problem at all, promise. But Vidal is back from suspension and is almost certain to start. He has developed a nice relationship with Messi and the two love these little intricate passing combinations at the edge of the box, usually on the right side, so they’ll be trying to explore the Alaba-Davies pairing all night. Vidal is also our best pressing player and will run after the ball like a crazy person all night, which could also create problems if Bayern look to build from the back.
2. Did Barça look like a different side against Napoli, or did you see the same problems that have been plaguing them this season resurface?
We were very good in the first half and there were many encouraging signs from a pressing and defense standpoint, but this team is old and runs out of energy in the second half, and that’s exactly what happened. The bad defensive habits also came back in the final 45 minutes, and it’s really hard to see us keeping up with Bayern’s pace for 90 minutes.
We just don’t have enough young players to run around for a long time, as simplistic as that sounds, and we can be extremely slow in possession, making it easy for any high-level defensive team to stop us with aggressive pressing and smart positioning when forced to defend deeper. Bayern are far superior at everything, and there’s nothing on this Barça team that gives me any hope of winning on Friday. Oh, sorry, Messi. Forgot about him. That’s about it, though.
3. Which Bayern players do you think will give Barça a hard time? [Gimme your top 3]
Number one is easily Thomas Müller. Players with his movement and ability to find and run into space are just a terror to our defense, especially because he’ll be operating in Sergio Busquets’ area and Busquets is not nearly as good as he once was defensively.
Number two is Serge Gnabry because the prospect of him running at our full-backs all night has already given me at least one nightmare every night. Number three has to be Robert Lewandowski, obviously, though I am somewhat confident Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet can make it a bit difficult for him.
4. Bayern Munich like to press hard and win the ball back ASAP. How do you think Setien will set up to deal with that?
Setién’s biggest strength is his biggest weakness: his teams ALWAYS pass from the back, no matter how hard the pressing is, and he won’t negotiate that under any circumstance. Marc-André ter Stegen will have the ball on his feet a lot and he’s capable of playing some sweet long balls if Bayern’s press is just too hard, but I expect a lot of nervy moments as he tries to find a short option with all the Bayern players coming at our backline. Again, nightmares.
5. From the Barça perspective, what is Bayern’s #1 exploitable weakness?
I honestly do not see a weakness in this Bayern team when it comes to this specific matchup. They might have trouble with other teams with different players and different skill sets, but this Barça team is just like a hand in a glove for Bayern. This is not an exaggeration or reverse psychology: Bayern is a better football team in every single area of the pitch and they should win this very easily. Barça are slow in possession and don’t have the energy to keep up with Bayern’s pace of play, and this game should be over in a hurry if Bayern are smart and efficient on the counter attack.
The only hope I have, looking at this objectively, is that Barça dominate midfield. They do like to have as many players in the middle as possible, and it will take a lot of hard work out of possession for Goretzka, Thiago and Müller. Messi will be in Thiago’s area all night, and if he can win that matchup, we have a chance. If Bayern’s midfield wins, this is an easy night for you guys.
Huge thanks to Renato for making this QandA possible! Check out our friends over at Barca Blaugranes for top-notch coverage of the Blaugranas. On the other hand, if you’re here for more Bayern content, stick around and browse Bavarian Football Works. We have plenty of stuff to keep you satisfied.