The Bavarians surely were aware of the opponent’s qualities, considering that Olympiacos won their last six home matches in the Champions League. Among those were surprising wins such as a 1-0 against Juventus and a 3-2 against Atletico last year. Two years ago, the team even reached the knockout stage where they were eliminated by Manchester United despite a 2-0 win in the first leg. A very dangerous opponent in their own stadium, there can be no doubt about it.
1. Xabi Alonso and the fountain of youth
Just like in the first half of last season, the Spanish midfielder is showing convincing performances these days. With his tons of experience, he’s positively influencing both the offense and the defense. One thing Alonso benefits from is one of Guardiola’s tactical tweaks – the situational back-four gives him the space he needs for a clean buildup and safe defending. The first half in particular saw him defuse many opposing long balls with good positioning. In the 75 minutes he played, Alonso had a remarkable five clearances and three interceptions. Add to that a tackling success rate of 60% and you get a statistically impressive performance for a defensive midfielder.
The current attacking style helps Xabi Alonso as well. Due to his accuracy and vision, he’s made for those diagonal passes to Douglas Costa. Against Olympiacos, seven of his nine long balls were successful – three of those being key passes that created scoring chances for Bayern. If Pep Guardiola is capable of keeping Alonso in that form, regardless of his injury, the question mark behind selling Schweinsteiger would fade away.
2. Thiago improves
Thiago was kind of an unsung hero in the first Champions League match. From minute 15 on, nearly everything he tried was a success. Bayern’s first scoring chances were the result of Thiago’s aggressiveness. His six successful tackles opened up the usually tight space between the Olympiacos lines, creating numerous paths for Bayern to get inside the box. The four key passes he played were mainly long balls to Costa – similar to Xabi Alonso, just like the success rate for long balls (7/9). With 112 touches and a tackling success rate of 72%, Thiago was a key figure in the Bayern game.
3. Squad depth
Robert Lewandowski was rather invisible in this match, not adding much to the Bayern game despite two good scoring chances. Guardiola acted fast and replaced him with Coman shortly after taking the lead. Just a year ago, such a tactical substitution wouldn’t have been possible due to the lack of such options in the squad whenever both Ribery and Robben were injured. Bringing on Götze, who surely wasn’t at 100 percent, is another example of this. Right now, it’s possible for Bayern to influence matches with substitutions, adding more firepower and increasing pressure. Kingsley Coman needed a bit to get into the match but assisted two late goals with wonderful movement. Both moments served as proof of his abilities in one-on-ones. Mario Götze too needed a bit of time, losing the ball twice in midfield, but then secured the important away win with the anticipation and finish of a world-class striker. Despite injuries, it’s still all about the depth.
|Olympiacos – FC Bayern München|
|Olympiacos||Roberto – Elabdellaoui, da Costa, Siovas, Masuaku – Salino, Cambiasso (66. Fortounis), Kasami – Pardo (82. Seba), Domínguez (61. Hernani), Ideye|
|Subs||Kapino, Botia, Vouros, Finnbogason|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Bernat, Alaba, Boateng, Lahm – Alonso (76. Kimmich)- Costa, Vidal (79. Götze), Thiago, Müller – Lewandowski (59. Coman)|
|Subs||Ulreich, Martinez, Rafinha, Rode|
|Goals||0-1 Müller (52.), 0-2 Götze (89.), 0-3 Müller (92., penalty)|
|Cards||Yellow: Kasami (5.), Cambiasso (23.), Elabdellaoui (25.) / Müller (45.), Kimmich (86.)|
|Referee||Carlos Velasco Carballo|