Bayern progressed through to the Champions League semifinals after a 0:0 draw at the Allianz Arena. Sevilla changed their tactical approach from the first leg and managed to keep the game goalless.
In a week where everyone went bonkers around Europe, both Sevilla and Bayern used their heads. Vincenzo Montella recognised that his 4-4-2 was only partly successful in neutering die Roten. Jupp Heynckes, facing Arturo Vidal’s injury and in light of James Rodríguez’s impact in the first leg, chose to keep the Colombian in the Startelf.
Sevilla’s new plan
Montella threw away his playbook from the first leg. Knowing that James would start, he opted for a 4-2-3-1. The shape was pretty evident from the get-go.
Éver Banega and Steven N’Zonzi stood in the defensive midfield line, which served two purposes.
First, to prevent diagonal passing by splitting the midfield into two lines. This was a problem Sevilla had after James replaced Vidal in the Pizjuán.
Second, to cut advances by any means necessary. As you could infer from our livetweet and from Michel’s thoughts article, this was a universal policy for Sevilla. However, it remained clear that Banega and N’Zonzi were hounds more than any of the others.
The flip side was that Bayern felt more confident to press upfield. They were no longer facing two four-man lines that would make such pressure hard.
The effect of Montella’s new plan was that Bayern could readily use the wings. Joshua Kimmich and Rafinha provided overlapping runs all game long. However, the creation of spaces was incredibly difficult. Openings appeared few and far between.
After Robert Lewandowski broke out in the second minute and fell down fouled by Gabriel Mercado, Sevilla remembered how to defend. You could say that Sevilla sacrificed a few metres of defensive room to allow for a more ferreous guard of the box.
Heynckes fielded a 4-1-4-1 that has become ubiquitous in recent weeks. Javi Martínez marshaled the defensive midfield on his own. Ahead of him stood James and Thomas Müller as interior midfielders.
In essence, both of them enjoyed sizeable amounts of freedom. Müller routinely chose to roam the space around Robert Lewandowski. James, on the other hand, either trailed back like a number 5 or number 8, or played wide with Franck Ribéry or Arjen Robben.
In light of Montella’s novel plan, this was perhaps not the best approach. Bayern managed to dominate, yes, but they lacked a clear reference in attack. James and Müller used their mobility so frequently that you could not predict where they would be. The result was a bit of disorder:
James routinely trailed back to the defensive third to start creating from the back. In defence, Müller started the pressure in line with Lewandowski:
In the end, Bayern was in more tactical disarray than not. Above, it looks like a 4-4-2. The truth is that it shifted depending on where James and Müller were. The team lacked a solid passing lane for much of the game, rendering the wide runs a bit useless.
A soft lesson
Indeed, this was a tasteless game. In comparison with the other ties, both Bayern and Sevilla employed down-to-earth approaches in a tie that was perhaps less done and dusted than others. It seems odd, but that is the way it went.
Bayern managed the game rather well, even in light of a tactical disorder, and saw the tie through. Sevilla bowed out of the competition with their heads up and leaving a better image than the other teams that were knocked out.