Sep 17, 2013, 7:32 PM EDT
If you’re the type to look for smudges on a Rubens, there were two complaints you could make about Bayern Munich ahead of today’s UEFA Champions League opener. They don’t seem as good as last year, your case would start, but given they posted a +80 goal difference in league, some regression was inevitable. More indicting: The adjustment they’re undergoing under Pep Guardiola leaving teams too close, and while they’re dominating games and rarely giving up chances, they’ve often kept teams within one defensive error or well-executed counter attack of getting a result. (This is where I reference the Freiburg result for the 86th time).
Tuesday’s 3-0 over CSKA Moscow addressed both of those concerns, but the extent to which they answered the critiques depends on how you view early goals. David Alaba, summoning the same fortune that saw him score in last year’s Champions League against Gianluigi Buffon, curved a third minute free kick off Igor Afineev’s hands and into CSKA’s goal. With the lead, Bayern didn’t have to expose their defense or press as they would have while needing a goal. With 87 minutes left to play, Bayern not only had their earliest lead of the season but also a scoreline particularly advantageous to their ball-hogging style.
It’s easy to dispel that theory, thought. Just note that Bayern, after going up one, didn’t change their approach. And for most of the match, CSKA didn’t either. They couldn’t afford to. The fourth minute is too early to change, open up, and start chasing the match. That would have been a recipe for something worse than a 3-0 loss.
What we’re left with is Bayern’s most impressive performance of the season: A controlling, multi-goal victory; against a quality opponent; in an unquestionably meaningful game (as opposed to the German or UEFA Super Cups). Monopolizing possession (69 percent), dominating shots (20-8), and dwarfing their opponent’s shots on goal (9-2), Bayern played out Guardiola’s vision to perfection. And they did so without Javi Martinez, Mario Götze, or a fully healthy Bastian Schweinsteiger.
People may dismiss the performance because of the opposition, but it’s be better to say CSKA had a bad day. Or Bayern are always capable of posting this type of performance at home (ask Barcelona). The Russians have a normally world class goalkeeper, experienced defense, a quality central midfielder (Pontus Wernbloom) and two legitimately dangerous players in attack: Japanese international Keisuke Honda and Nigerian international Ahmed Musa. They were without Alan Dzageov, often their best player in recent years, but with CSKA seeing very little of the ball in Munich, the young Russian wouldn’t have helped them today.
This was the type of performance Guardiola may have been waiting for: A proof of concept that can propel the team forward. The one- and two-goal victories that have filled the start of their Bundesliga campaign were filled with promise, but until a day like today, it was unclear when that promise would come good. Now the question is whether Bayern can build on this breakout Saturday at Schalke, or will a team more familiar with their personnel be better equipped to slow them down?
Having scored twice from set pieces on Tuesday, there is reason to think Bayern’s still not fully clicking. But that gets back to the influence of Alaba’s goal – an early tally that allowed FCB to exercise patience. If they score early at the Veltins-Arena, we’ll likely see another game like today’s. If not, FCB may still be able to use the momentum of their season’s best performance to start meeting some of last year’s standards.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT
MLS’s nine-match Saturday kicks off Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, with Chicago hosting New England on NBCSN.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT
Think MLS’s conferences are unbalanced now? Let me offer you a glimpse at 2017.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT
An American consortium has a deal to buy the club from Randy Lerner, if it can avoid relegation.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT
The 21-year-old U.S. international appears to have underestimated the impact of an in-season tattoo.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
U.S. number one signs extension that will take him through the next World Cup cycle.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT
Gunners playmaker back fit, as Arsene Wenger expects big things from the German next season:
Apr 17, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT
Real Madrid has the easiest path, with the next two weekends potentially knocking the holders out of contention.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT
England international a doubt after hamstring injury, why would Liverpool risk him?
Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
Which MLS teams can join New York in leaving the ranks of the winless?
Apr 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT
Unstoppable Reds continue to roll, but where did the contenders shake out in our latest rankings?
Apr 17, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT
Both players should be back by the time their national teams start preparations for this summer’s World Cup.
Apr 17, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Thousands of flares engulfed Greece’s Toumba Stadium as a bench was lit on fire and covered in anchovies. And that was all before the match…
Apr 17, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT
With Guardiola not taking kindly to criticism from the front office, could the former Barcelona boss return to the Camp Nou?
Apr 17, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT
For decades Manchester United have been the top dogs in Manchester, now that’s changing. PST’s Editor and Lead Writer went behind the scenes to see what Mancunians are all about:
Apr 17, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT
Can Brendan Rodgers and company make it through the rest of their schedule unscathed to the prize at the end? Chelsea seem like the biggest hurdle. Our very own Joe Prince-Wright and Mike Prindiville discuss.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT
Conspiracy theories are abound, with Swansea’s Garry Monk believing someone is out to get his club while Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert couldn’t speak on the suspension of staff members due to a “legal investigation.”
Apr 17, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT
Napoli’s Marek Hamsik has struggled this year, but the 26-year-old could seriously bolster a Premier League attack.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT
With its club licensing benchmark report for the 2012 season, UEFA has outlined trends that signal both unprecedented growth and overspending issues.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT
According to a BBC report, a Cardiff player leaked the lineup to Moody who mistakenly sent a text to the wrong person.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:37 AM EDT
With Brendan Rodgers having steered Liverpool to unthinkable Premier League heights, Arsene Wenger believes the deciders should instead look to the league’s trenches to give out its postseason award.
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