Controlled pace, accurate plays and timely goals despite an energy-saver mode: FC Bayern München could have hardly handled their match against Hannover on Saturday.
Here are three thoughts on the 3:0 win.
Jupp Heynckes surprised us with a creative lineup tailored to rest players ahead of Champions League semi-finals against Real Madrid. You could not have predicted that he would pull U-19 defender Lars Lukas Mai out of a hat and put Niklas Süle in central midfield.
Here is what Anup Sastry had to say about Mai before the match:
With those two changes, we saw a familiar formation but an unusual setup:
Rafinha, Mai, Boateng, Bernat
Robben, James, Thiago
This way, Jupp was able to rest a luxury bench ahead of the Real Madrid. Although they did well, Mai and Süle are difficult to evaluate fairly in their respective positions since Hannover offered little opposition. Their best accomplishment was barely resisting Bayern’s attacks in the final third.
A taste of 2013
Many comparisons between the 2018 Bayern and the 2013 edition are overblown. This match, however, clearly reminded me of the treble-winning team.
The Bundesliga is in the bag and a huge matchup is coming in the midweek. The team did dominate proceedings while turning on the energy-saver mode. The Reds built up their plays slowly, minimised runs and waited for the likes of James Rodríguez and Thiago Alcântara to find their passing lanes before turning on the aggression in the final third.
The team created chances, but did so patiently. It tried to win the game without killing itself. That model is a carbon-copy of 2013, and I find it hard not to like it.
Rebirth of Rafinha
A few weeks ago, most Bayern fans thought that Rafinha should leave the club in the summer.
Independently of what they think today, they have to credit him for stepping it up in recent weeks. He replaced a failing Juan Bernat in the Champions League quarters, first leg, against Sevilla to stabilise the left flank. He put on an amazing display in the second leg.
On Saturday, he returned to right-back in a makeshift formation, making plays such as a superb cross to Thiago (12′).
It does not matter if Rafinha stays or leaves this summer. He has played strong football, so far, in the business end of the season. Right when his services were the most needed.