analysis

FC Köln to depend on last-ditch defensive efforts against Bayern

FC Köln may look good in third place in the Bundesliga but their ability to stop FC Bayern will most likely depend on last-ditch defending efforts on Saturday.

After five matchdays, we can finally whip up pre-match analysis based on performance so far this season. What can we learn from a close look at the numbers?

The basics

Category FC Bayern FC Köln
Possession rate
Passing rate
Goals scored
Chances created
Conversion rate
Goals conceded
Shots conceded per game
63%
87%
15
70
21.4%
1
7
46%
76%
9
48
18.8%
2
15.4

Action zones

Category FC Bayern FC Köln
Own third
Middle third
Opposition third
22%
48%
31%
29%
47%
24%

What do we have here? Obviously two teams with different styles. Just like Bayern, Köln concede few goals, but they do so while spending much more time in their own end and much less time in the attacking third.

An extremely important statistic, as the bold text suggests in the first table, is opportunism. You would expect a more defensive team to have more killer instinct, converting a bigger proportion of their chances than the Reds. After all, FCB tend to play against resolute defences that will do anything they can to survive the Bavarian juggernaut’s assault.

In addition, the opponent concedes 15.4 shots per game. Only mid-table Mainz and the bottom three in the league are that generous.

The Billy Goats may not bite as hard as you would think.

One on one

What happens when you break down the game a bit more?

Category FC Bayern FC Köln
Duels won
Tackles won
Take ons won
Air duels won
Defensive actions/game
Yellow cards (red)
51%
42%
49%
60%
31
9 (0)
45%
36%
39%
49%
43
9 (0)

If I were a Köln fan, I would be worried! FC Bayern are superior in all departments: better on the ball and better off it. Air superiority should be expected.

FCB win almost half of their take ons. Turn this specific playing situation around to see that Saturday’s visitors win barely more than a third of their tackles. Timo Horn may have to make a few saves.

Attacking details

Category FC Bayern FC Köln
Average pass length
Shots per game
Shots on target per game
Take ons per game
Goals from open play
Goals from counterattacks
Goals from set pieces
Attacking from the left
Attacking from the middle
Attacking from the right
17 meters
17.6
7.2
9.6
11
3
1
35%
27%
38%
22 meters
13
5.4
5.6
6
1
2
39%
26%
35%

I see three important points just above.

Keeping in mind that FCB do well in take on situations and Köln struggle when tackling, the frequency of the Bavarian dribbles add a further concern for the visitors. They will have to improve their tackling to avoid the creation of numerous chances.

Secondly, both teams tend to attack from the flanks. If FCB keep the upper hand in challenges, they should be able to cancel out the visitors’ efforts. At the other end, a better team should be able to slip past the defence and create quality opportunities in the box.

Thirdly, I find it incredible that a team which converts less of its chances, and passes with more length, relies very little on the counterattack to score. Can they reverse the trend against Bayern?

The wild card for possession teams

Now, there are enough numbers to convince us that FCB will keep a tight grip on this game. However, how can we understand why Köln are third in the league behind Borussia Dortmund and why they concede so few goals?

Wolfsburg and Schalke, two attacking sides that out-possessed Köln, have allowed us to draw lessons from their own encounters against the Billy Goats, who have shown survival skills.

The 3:1 win at Schalke

The Royal Blues dominated the action with 67% of the ball, and 17 shots taken against only 9.

On the flip side, blocked shots were Köln’s main answer with 17 made by eight players, mostly in the middle:

blocks

The 0:0 tie at Wolfsburg

The Wolves dominated the attacking aspects of the game with shots, passes, touches and aerial duels, just as you would expect from Die Roten. Fouling, interceptions and loss of possession were too close to call.

How did Köln resist, knowing that their keeper only had to make four saves?

Clearances low in the middle. 26 were made by nine players:

clearances

The Billy Goats better be perfect again with their last-ditch efforts if they want to avoid getting burned.

Final thoughts

A thorough analysis of the action so far would make you think that FCB may struggle to defeat FC Köln due to Schalke’s and Wolfsburg’s struggles. However, both sides have been disappointing in many ways since late August. Both have not dealt with something as painful as attacking against Atlético de Madrid.

I expect a win on Saturday, perhaps by a couple of goals.

Note: All data used in this piece comes from Squawka and WhoScored.

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