Preview: FC Bayern – Besiktas Istanbul

Justin Separator February 18, 2018

FC Bayern could have been hit much harder. The draw brought the Champions League great encounters like Real Madrid versus Paris or Juventus versus Tottenham. For the Munich team, however, it was an opponent they last faced in 1997 in the group stage of the Champions League. These were the only two duels between FC Bayern and Besiktas Istanbul. Both ended 2-0 for FCB.

The (recent) past

For Besiktas, the last sixteen is already a kind of historic success. In 1987 they were already in the quarter-finals of the 1987 European Champions’ Cup, but on their way there they benefited from Nikosia’s exit in Round 2, which for political reasons did not start. At that time, it took the Turks only two victories against KS Dinamo Tirana (Albania / 2-0 and 1-0) to reach the round of the last eight. The final destination was Dynamo Kiev (0-5 and 0-2). On the other hand, the value of this year’s success is already higher. In a balanced group with Leipzig, Monaco and Porto they prevailed as group winners. Proof of international class.

In the recent past, Besiktas has achieved its greatest European successes by competing in the smaller Europa League. In 2017, they narrowly failed in the quarter-finals because Lyon won the penalty shootout. In 2012 they made it to the round of sixteen, where Atlético Madrid was too big (1-3 and 0-3). Especially in the Champions League they never got past the group stage.

The success that has been achieved since Senol Günes became the black eagle’s coach is all the more impressive. In 2015 he was appointed to the post, after Besiktas had not won the title since 2009 and the Turkish Cup since 2011. Both in 2016 and 2017 the championship went to his team. Although they failed to win the cup, this is not so dramatic in view of the attractive and successful football that Besiktas played.

Senol Günes enjoyed some success with Besiktas.
(Image: Stuart Franklin / Bongarts / Getty Images)

What football does Senol Günes stand for?

In the 2015/16 season, Besiktas played perhaps the most attractive and fastest football in a very long time. Günes implemented a more than solid build-up play and a strong positional game – at least at the national level. The team was able to handle high pressing and combine it with high speed. Two old acquaintances from Munich played an important role at that time.

On the one hand, the leading goalscorer Mario Gomez and on the other hand Jose Ernesto Sosa, who played a central role behind him. He was the playmaker who united all the team parts, gave the necessary structure and set the scene for his offensive players. On this basis, it is possible to analyse how the current Senol Günes team works or should work.

Günes stands for tactical flexibility. He adapts his instructions according to his own squad and the opponent and changes them from game to game. However, Besiktas is basically a very offensive team in the 4-2-3-1-1/4-4-2 under him, and the wing focus was an important building block for success in the first season. Quaresma and Töre occupied the offensive outer lanes and brought a lot of danger. Besiktas knew how to free these two players with good combinations and movements.

However, the dependency was never so great that the centre was neglected. There Sosa collected 19 scorer points in the Süper Lig. The team lacks such a player today. Talisca, who is borrowed from Benfica, has been able to score 17 goals in all competitions so far and has a good ratio of about 130 minutes per goal, but he is not as strong as Sosa in the structural area of his position. Rather, he is a kind of second striker, which does not contribute much in the passing game and ball circulation, but radiates a great goal threat.

However, no current player in the squad seems to be a good playmaker. Günes has adapted the game accordingly. Especially in the Champions League he often changed to a less dominant and sometimes deliberately chaotic approach.

In the games against AS Monaco, for example, Besiktas tried to bridge the midfield with long kicks on his own left side. That’s where they finally overloaded. Then. the second or third balls were to be won at the latest, in order to move out of the confines to the right side where Quaresma was waiting. The Portuguese is no longer an outstanding one-on-one player. In the Champions League, opponents often had him under control.

Adriano (LB) pushes forward, the six and the ten move towards the left side and and the eight towards the six. Thus Besiktas overloads the left side. The reaction of the Germans will be interesting. Does the six move over to compensate? Will the attacking players press high? Besiktas will try to play on the left zone, then resolve to the right where Quaresma is waiting. Bayern can either prevent the first long stroke with high pressing or they can defend their own right side intelligently zonally. If the switch of play is made, it gets dangerous.

Nevertheless, Quaresma is extremely dangerous if he gets space. His crosses are often precise and always a great risk for the defending team. Over time, Besiktas has become very dependent on high flanks. In the home game against Porto, Quaresma alone shovelled 18 crosses into the penalty area.

This often made sense in the first half of the season, because Tosun was a player in the squad who can be described as a complete striker. He is not only strong with his head, but also good at finishing and talented with the ball. Every 103 minutes he was involved in a goal and at least some of the playmaker gap in the centre could be concealed. His transfer in winter was a bitter setback.

Talisca scores regularly and Negredo, who also has a strong header, is a joker now and then (78 minutes per goal) but both have clear weaknesses. None of them is as complete as Tosun. Therefore Besiktas signed Vagner Love in winter.

Even this was not a 1:1 replacement for Tosun in the last few games, but it was nevertheless a considerable improvement. He not only has the necessary robustness, but is also able to create his own chances and bring movement into offensive play. Obviously, however, he still needs time to integrate himself perfectly and his qualities with his header are not at the level of Tosun. Here Besiktas has lost considerable strength.

On the next page you will find out what Bayern have to be prepared for in the first leg. How will Besiktas act?

The Turks no longer play as fast a football as in 2015 and 2016, but they do not need many chances and are very experienced. What must Bayern pay special attention to?

To this end, we first analyse the individual parts of the team and work out possible weak points of the guests.

Strengths and weaknesses of the defensive line

FC Bayern could be the perfect opponent for the Turks, in which the structural weaknesses mentioned above do not carry too much weight. Compared to the last years, the team is much more experienced. Pepe is the key player in the defense, known not only for his sometimes absurd aggressiveness, but also for his mercilessly good duel behaviour. He organizes the defence. Medel would be an experienced alternative for the injured Tosic. But if Medel plays in the midfield, Vida should start. Both are physically good defenders, but Medel is technically stronger.

On the defensive outer lanes, the black eagles are more likely to have problems. Adriano is a very experienced and intelligent defender on the left. Against Monaco, he sometimes pushed diagonally into the centre so that one could speak of an inverse defender. He helps to support the left side in an offensive manner, to play better in the half space and to offer his midfielders solutions to relieve tight situations. Also against the ball he is at least stable, but not without weaknesses. Roben could put pressure on this area if his form improves.

On the right, on the other hand, it becomes more complicated for the Turks. Both Gönül and his alternatives are not the best solution. Gönül occasionally drops out of the squad and has problems especially against fast players. If he doesn’t play, Adriano usually moves to his side and Erkin plays left. FC Bayern must identify a clear weakness here. Ideally, they’re setting up Kingsley Coman, who is not only the fastest offensive player in the squad, but also has the best one-on-one odds.

However, this only applies if Adriano actually defends on the left and does not have to help out on the right again. In the latter case, one should consider sending Coman to the right outer lane – the side where Adriano doesn’t play. It would be reckless to attack this vulnerability with Ribéry and/or Robben. Of course they can also make the difference with their quality, but Coman is more likely to do so in this game.

Is the midfield compact and physical or more offensive?

In the centre in front of the defence, a very physical cast is to be expected at least in Munich. Hutchinson and Medel are two very aggressive and duelling players. The former will confine himself solely to clearing up and trying to make life difficult for Bayern’s eights. As mentioned above, Medel, on the other hand, also has the technical skills to solve Bayern’s counterpressing situations and then set the scene for the fast wing players. The Munich team should focus on him in the event of ball losses – whether in central defence or in the six. His verticality in the passing game must be limited.

From a tactical point of view, it would be a good idea to have James and Thiago pair up as number eights in the first leg. However, the Spaniard has to wait and see how fit he can be after only one match. Vidal would be especially valuable against the ball. He could put a lot of pressure on the build-up sixes and defenders and thus prevent controlled transition moments of the guests.

On Bayern’s six, Martínez is likely to be the best tactical option in safeguarding the two eights. Only he can defend the big space before the defence alone and only he can prevent difficult situations after loosing balls in the last second. This could mask Bayern’s tactical weaknesses.

Günes on the other hand will have to decide for this number ten position between another physically stronger option (Tolgay Arslan) and a more offensive player who is not as effective against the ball (Talisca or Özyakup). With Arslan, the center would be very compact, but less penetrating. Talisca would be the most offensive option, but it would be a big risk.

Besiktas will want to compress the center. Depending on the pressure and positioning of Bayern Munich, the staggering may vary. Bavaria will often be outnumbered there and therefore has to find the right spaces.

Özyakup has already played very good games, especially in the Champions League. He would be a good combination of offense and defense. With him, Besiktas would not only have the outer lanes as a fixed point, but also the center. Özyakup can create chances, make wise decisions under pressure and occasionally provide strong individual actions. He was also very capable of moving outwards and overloading. He is not as good as Sosa back then, but he’s the best available option if Besiktas wants to fight against it in a playful way.

It’s also conceivable that Medel will start in the back and Arslan will move up to the six next to Hutchinson. However, Günes would still have to decide between Özyakup and Talisca, although the latter is more likely to be the joker variant in Munich because he is too ineffective against the ball.

Closing down the wings

Quaresma and Babel are set on the wings. The former will want to convince more by crosses and his passing game, while Babel more often dribbles and gets his own shots. The Dutchman’s lack of form was most recently visible, but it is all the more impressive that he has scored nine goals. His start to the season was particularly strong.

He will want to present himself at his best against Bayern. On the left side, however, he will also meet Joshua Kimmich, who recently threw himself into every duel and made clear progress against the ball. Against Babel he will play a key role.

On the other hand, Alaba probably has less dribbling to defend, but he must avoid Quaresma’s crosses and connections to the center without taking himself out of the offense. Alaba has recently been on a very strong path. Normally he should be able to cope with Quaresma.

However, these tasks are not only assigned to Bayern’s fullbacks. The Munich team must be alert and tactically intelligent at an early stage in the game.

What Bayern should focus on

Besiktas won’t be parking the bus in the first leg, but they want to defend themselves actively and very compactly. Especially the aggressiveness and physicality of the guests should be avoided with a good positional game and a fast ball circulation. Besiktas has collected more than 80 yellow cards this season. In addition, there were six sending-offs (among them a plain red card). Almost surprisingly, Pepe only contributed five yellow cards.

Nevertheless, Besiktas is not to be regarded as a team that kicks at anything that moves. Their quite dangerous offensive orientation and their playing quality have to be shown in the transition moments if they want to take something with them.

To achieve this, they will vary their pressing. In the duels with Leipzig, for example, they convinced with a high level of attacking pressing and later on dropped compactly into their own half. They will also show these types of changes during the game in Munich.

Besiktas will also start higher in some phases. In that case, the Germans must try to lure the opponent’s wingers into the middle. Against Monaco the wings often moved out and a shifted 4-3-3 formation occurred, in the most offensive case a 4-2-4 formation. If Bayern gets the ball into the spaces on the outer lane, chances arise to play on the dark green area in the centre. From there they could finally open the half-spaces and eliminate the entire enemy with a few passes.

In particular, the conclusion for FC Bayern is that they have to be very well organized when in possession of the ball. Against the physically strong players in the center, they should find solutions to avoid getting involved in too many duels. Otherwise, a similar game in the midfield could occur as against Schalke. There, Bayern often lost control and got involved in too many open duels.

A fit Thiago would be, as mentioned before, the ideal solution alongside James. Especially in the first leg, where Besiktas will defend more than attack. If he can’t play, you have to hope for a special day for Vidal. He is not the type of player who relieves James in a playful and structural way, but he can relieve Lewandowski on good days in possession of the ball, who definitely needs support against Pepe and Medel or Vida.

Müller can also do this job very well. Together with Lewandowski and James, the three of them would be able to take control of the centre and unpark the bus. However, James and Müller are clearly weaker in counterpressing than Vidal. A compromise would be that Müller starts for the recently weak Robben and acts as an inside winger. Kimmich is able to run a sideline on his own and you would have more personnel in the center to take control.

Irrespective of the cast, switching sides is an important tool. From the narrow centre, you’ll have to set the scene for the fast-moving wingers against the defenders. Let’s hope Heynckes trusts Coman. He could provide a decisive factor in the first leg, while Robben and Ribéry have raised more and more doubts lately. However, Coman had a cold on the weekend and Ribéry’s early substitution against Wolfsburg was also meaningful. It would be a pity, because Ribéry made the game slower rather than driving it forward – despite his goals, which only concealed it.

Tactically, the ball has to go into zone 14 (the space of the number ten) again and again, so that you can quickly open the half spaces from there. However, Bayern have struggled with exactly that in recent matches.

If James is taken out of the game and Thiago doesn’t play or has a bad day, there is a dangerous wing focus that Besiktas can simply defend away.

Crosses tend not to be an effective instrument against the physically strong Turks. If Bayern fail to let the ball circulate at high speed and in a way that opens up space, there is a danger of a static game in which Besiktas is given easier access.

Then the black eagles can use their switching power to find the connections to Babel and Quaresma via Medel and possibly Özyakup. At the front is either the very strong Negredo or the playfully stronger Vagner Love. The latter is probably the better alternative for counter-attacks.

Bavaria urgently needs a first leg cushion

Bayern has everything in their own hands. Besiktas will oppose them physically, in terms of running and tactics, but it should only be enough if Bayern are not able to bring their playing quality to the pitch. Possible causes could be a potentially fatal bench place for Coman or poor staggering in the center against clever Besiktas players.

Their individual experience is vast. They don’t have the same speed as two years ago and they don’t act so clean technically either. But they will put Bayern under pressure, and occasionally start up a little higher to see how the opponent reacts to it and thus constantly change their rhythm. These speed changes are perhaps the greatest strength of the Turks. Besiktas is certainly not a walkover, but a team that can be there when it counts and doesn’t need many chances for a goal.

Their average age of about 29 years could be the reason for a very inconsistent season. But as soon as Bayern underestimates them or fails to make use of the clear weaknesses on the outer lane and to fill the gaps in the midfield well, an unsatisfactory result could be achieved.

If Besiktas manages to get a good result in Munich, FC Bayern are facing a potential fireworks display in the second leg. You will then experience one of Europe’s loudest stadiums up close and be exposed to great pressure from a strong home team.

The first leg against FC Porto not so long ago proved that a special atmosphere can also impress a big team. Bayern would therefore be well advised to take a good cushion from the first leg. Besiktas is somewhat unsettled by the results in the last weeks and Bayern are self-confident enough to defeat their opponents at home in the Champions League.

Thanks to Anil and Göksel, who supported me in my research.


In the Fantipp one of our readers bets on the outcome of the game. There are three points for the right bet and one point for the right tendency (victory, draw, defeat). This is then compared with a bet from the Miasanrot editorial team. At the end of the season it will become clear whether the invited fans have scored more points than the editorial team.

Göksel bets directly against me in both games. He is an expert on Turkish football and knows Besiktas better than most others.

Göksel: First leg: From the very first minute I expect a self-confident Bayern, who want to create a comfortable situation for themselves in the first leg before the return leg. The Turkish champions will start with respect and a certain nervousness, as is usually the case with Turkish teams. But they will try to exploit the opportunities that are given them. My bet for the first leg: 3-1 for FC Bayern.
In the second leg, Besiktas will have to deliver. They are supported by the fans in their backs. The German champion will want to do something against his opponent in the countergame. Besiktas will win the second leg 2-1.

Justin: Bayern will go into the first leg with great commitment and concentration. Besiktas can, however, gain some dangerous counterattacks. Nevertheless, Bayern will win 3-1.
In the second leg, Besiktas scores a relatively early goal and really boosts the game. Shortly before the halfway point, the equaliser falls. Nevertheless, Bayern will still be uneasy coming out of the cabin and will once again be trailing behind. However, they get the situation under control again and finally more or less confidently reach the next round by a 2-2.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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