3 Things We Noticed: RSC Anderlecht – FC Bayern 1-2 (0-0)

It’s not often that the second-to-last game in the Champions League group stage has this little importance – and this fact was obvious from the team’s performance throughout the game. It was a weak game that wasn’t the only annoying thing on this Wednesday evening.

SCA-FCB, starting formationsAnderlecht vs FC Bayern, starting formations

3 Things we noticed:

1. Midfield competitor struggles

Bayern’s most fought-for positions are in central midfield – which is exactly where an interesting arrangement appeared ahead of this game against Anderlecht. Martínez got a break, and Thiago, usually a fixture on the team sheet, was moved to the wing – making way for a midfield combination made up of three competitors.

Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Rudy, and Corentin Tolisso kept re-arranging themselves in different ways and provided no arguments to put them in the first team again, especially in the first half. It was almost impressive to see how little they managed to make of their chance.

Corentin Tolisso, who hadn’t played much in previous weeks, was particularly disappointing until the switch in positions forced by injury: once again he didn’t manage to position himself next to Vidal in a way that ensured both had enough space to play. Surely the Chilean played a part in this as well, but at least he had a couple of attempts in offensive play. Sebastian Rudy, the most creative of the three, played solidly.

In central defense, too, neither Boateng nor Süle really managed to shine. Sometimes all it took was a simple long ball to get past them, opening up spaces to Anderlecht’s offensive three. The defensive structur was strongly reminiscent of Bayern’s grey phase at the end of September, only improving a little with Martínez’ substitution.

It was disappointing to see that none of the three competitors for the midfield spots could truly impress. What Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Rudy, and Corentin Tolisso did most of all, despite the Frenchman’s involvement in both goals, was to help make Javi Martínez’ case.

2. Friedl’s successful debut

In Marco Friedl, Jupp Heynckes fielded a true surprise – after all, in Juan Bernat, he had a left-back on the bench who could have done with some more minutes after coming back from injury. And yet, the game against Anderlecht was ideal for Friedl’s debut.

The young Austrian had a decent game, especially considering the situation he found himself in: Thiago, ahead of him on the wing, never really found his footing as a winger, and the rest of the team couldn’t really provide their young team-mate with a feeling of safety.

Friedl therefore focused mostly on defensive work and did a good job of it. He cleared four balls, stopped three, and he had 81 touches (10 more than Boateng and Süle). His passing rate of 90% was solid, too.

All in all, it was a good debut, slightly dampened by his mistake ahead of the equaliser. But it’s exactly because of situations like that to give Friedl his chance with the first team in a game like this. Whether or not he will get another one will depend on Alaba and Bernat’s health. Jupp Heynckes now knows that he can depend on this 19-year-old if push comes to shove.

3. Thiago and Robben – painful losses

As little importance as the game itself had in regards to the next round in the Champions League, it was all the more annoying to lose both Thiago and Robben to injury. The Spaniard had to leave the pitch after a duel gone wrong – cursing loudly. According to first media reports, he left the stadium on crutches, which unfortunately seems to hint at a more severe injury.

Without speculating too much; losing Thiago for a longer time would be more than annoying. Looking at the midfield’s performance during the game against Anderlecht, his importance as creative director has become even more obvious.

Arjen Robben, too, realised soon after the break that he couldn’t continue. He jumped over Spajic’s tackle, but then gestured to be substituted, grabbing his thigh – the TV images made it look like it could be a muscular issue.

Both injuries at least have one silver lining: they come at the best possible time. For one because Thomas Müller and Kingsley Coman are close to their comebacks, for another, because there’s only small number of important games left ahead of the winter break, including Gladbach at the weekend, PSG in early December, and Dortmund in the German Cup shortly before Christmas.

RSC Anderlecht – FC Bayern 1-2 (0-0)
RSC AnderlechtSels – Appiah, Spajic, Kara, Deschacht – Dendoncker, Kums, Trebel – Gerkens (65. Onyekuru), Teodorczyk (82. Harbaoui), Hanni (71. Bruno)
BenchBoeckx, Josué, Beric, Sambi Lokonga
FC BayernUlreich – Kimmich, Boateng, Süle, Friedl – Rudy, Vidal (87. Hummels) – Robben (48. Martínez), Tolisso, Thiago (44. James) – Lewandowski
BenchStarke, Bernat, Martínez, Dorsch
Goals0-1 Lewandowski (52.); 1-1 Hanni (63.); 1-2 Tolisso (78.)
Yellow CardsSpajic, Trebel / Boateng, Lewandowski
RefereeAnthony Taylor (England)
Attendance20,000 (sold out)


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