There’s nothing more exciting than the first leg of the UEFA Champions League knockout stage. These are the matches where teams have to prove their group stage performances weren’t a fluke and therefore stamp their authority on the competition. Knockout football provides us with drama, coming of age performances and talking points for a lifetime.
Bayern Munich pulled off a stunning performance away from home, as they recorded a 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge to put them in pole position of securing qualification. In a battle between two European giants, it was the German champions who drew first blood, taking the lead early in the second half as Serge Gnabry tucked home a square pass Robert Lewandowski in the 51st minute.
The youngster doubled his tally three minutes later as he beat Willy Caballero one on one. Even though they took their foot off the gas after these two goals, Bayern would strengthen their dominance on the game with a third goal as Lewandowski tapped home from close range with 14 minutes to go. Matters would end this way putting the Bundesliga leaders firmly in control for the second leg.
Here are 3 tactical observations from Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at home to Bayern Munich.
#3 Thomas Muller as a second striker
Under Niko Kovac, Thomas Muller was a forgotten man, often finding himself on the bench. How things have changed, the German is now the first name on the team sheet. His influence on games has become so much that Philippe Coutinho has been unable to displace him, leaving the Brazilian on the bench.
Tonight, Muller was deployed as a #10 on paper, but instead played as a second striker behind Lewandowski. The German was touch tight to the striker, playing off him and creating chances for him too.
The 30-year-old didn’t just limit his movement to the centre of the pitch either, he often drifted into wide areas to target the outer CBs. This intelligent movement destabilised the Chelsea defence as they didn’t know whether to mark him, engage, or to stand off him.
Whatever they tried, he found a way to manoeuvre around them. In a performance that caused Chelsea much harm, the former German international created 5 chances, completed 32 passes and attempted 3 shots on goal.