FC Barcelona went all out this summer, selling their major financial rights to bring in world-class players. Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Jules Kounde were amongst those.
They did some smart business by bringing in Frank Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Hector Bellerin for free. The squad of this Barcelona side look very strong, and many consider them contenders for the Champions League and La Liga. They also had a strong start to the campaign, with Lewandowski and Dembele firing on all cylinders. Overall, the team looked very solid.
But one doubt remained whether they could deliver the same performance against the big sides. So, when Bayern Munich went up against Barcelona on matchday 2 of the Champions League, the whole football world observed it.
Barcelona were sweeping away Bayern with more chances created, more possession and a series of ball recoveries. Robert Lewandowski got three clear-cut chances, and Pedri got a clear sight of the goal. The game got extra hype as Robert Lewandowski, a goal machine for Bayern for the last eight years, returned to the Allianz Arena.
But surprisingly, Lewandowski missed those chances that most expect him to put into the net. Still, Barcelona had their tails up going to the break as they rattled Bayern, and Bayern needed to re-group. Julian Nagelsman had his work cut out and did some magic.
In the second half, the game completely turned on his head. Lucas Hernandes scored a header from a corner kick in the 50th minute, and Leroy Sane strolled past the Barcelona defence to score the 2nd. They easily won the ball, and Barcelona found it difficult to create something out of it.
The tactical genius of Nagelsman is to be credited for that. The double pivot of Kimmich and Goretzka in the 2nd half covered both Gavi and Pedri, whereas Muller marked Busquets. Mazraoui and Davies checked Dembele, Raphinha and Lewandowski between the centre-backs. Mane played most parts in the wing.
This tactic made central progression for Barcelona very difficult, and because of that, Marcos Alonso and Jules Kounde had the most touches for Barcelona on the night. The fullbacks, however, were found mostly behind the Bayern wingers when Barcelona lost the ball. The blistering pace of Sane and Mane was hard to stop. Because of the tight marking of Bayern in mid-field, Lewandowski would drop deep to provide passing options.
But if it had to be put on a whole, Dembele failed in many of his dribbles, Raphinha could not go past Davies very often, and the lack of clinical finishing were the major factors for Barcelona’s failure.
So, whether Barcelona is a serious contender for anything this season remains a question. The improving team under Xavi must become more clinical in the next games.