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Roma and Bayern Munich: same philosophy, one potential killjoy: Müller
Ball-possession and passing game: Guardiola and Garcia's credo is the same, but the Bavarians can play indifferently with a 3 or 4-men defensive line. The biggest threat for the Giallorossi will be Bayern's number 25
by Federico Formica
Let's say it clearly: Roma vs Bayern Munich is not a balanced clash. The Bavarians are clearly stronger in almost every position on the pitch and their international experience is immensely greater. Having said that, we don't believe that Roma will be blown away: at the Olimpico stadium we'll see a game that could go either way as the Giallorossi are on fire and already fit for the competition. The convincing game versus Manchester City proved it.

The similarity between Roma and Bayern Munich is one of the most interesting aspects of this game. The two sides play football according to the same philosophy, although Bayern are much more "orthodox" in their credo while Roma are more flexible. On the other side, Guardiola managed to build a chameleonic side, which is able to play indifferently with a 3-4-3, 3-4-1-2 or a 4-3-3 while Rudi Garcia never has moved away from a 4-man defensive line.

The same idea of football. Ball-possession, offensive football, passing game. Rudi Garcia and Pep Guardiola follow the same religion. Both sides have the best average ball possession in their respective leagues. The Bavarians have an astonishing 66,4% (ten points more than Borussia Dortmund, second team in this table), while Roma reach 59,3% (only one point more  than Juventus). It must be said that Roma's ball possession drops to 52% in the Champions League (the influence of the Manchester game on this average is remarkable), while Bayern's average is the same. This takes us back to Roma's flexibility: for Rudi Garcia, ball-possession is an option, but not the only one.

Ball-possession is useless without good passers. Keita, Pjanic, De Rossi on one side and Xabi Alonso, Lahm and Gotze on the other are among the most precise passers in their respective leagues, and that reflects on the whole team. Roma have the highest average of successful passes (87,5%, two points more than Juventus), while Bayern do the same in Bundesliga with 87.9%, six percentage points more than Borussia 'Gladbach.

Unfortunately, many talented midfielders will miss the game due to injuries (Strootman and Keita among the Giallorossi, Schweinsteiger and Thiago Alcantara among the Bavarians), but the essence is the same: the team who will occupy the midfield will have more than half the game in the pocket. Without Seydou Keita, Pjanic will have a huge responsibility as the Bosnian will be the best passer around in Giallorosso, together with Francesco Totti, he will have to dictate the tempo to Roma's orchestra. Keita played for Guardiola at Barcelona and no one knows Pep's game better than him at Roma.

Ball-possession is important, but scoring goals is crucial. Roma will have to face one of the most dangerous sides in Europe, as Bayern Munich shoot more (18,4 vs 13,1 shots per game), are more precise (7,1 vs 4,3 are on target) and have best dribblers (14,5 dribblings vs 9 per game) than Roma.

Two specular schemes. Guardiola could opt for a 4-3-3 at the Olimpico Stadium. That's his favourite scheme and it would create a symmetry with Roma. In attack, Bayern could deploy Gotze and Robben as wingers with Lewandowski as striker, whereas Roma would play with Iturbe and Gervinho as wingers with Totti as "false nine" . But Guardiola has an ace up his sleeve: Thomas Muller. The German can perform as a winger, as a false nine, as a second striker and even as a “trequartista.” His presence on the pitch could create some headaches to Garcia, as he's unpredictable and his constant moving makes him extremely difficult to mark. Roma don't have such a wildcard, although Gervinho and Iturbe's interchangeability and ability to cut inside are a sharp weapon. Should Muller play as a starter, Garcia could sideline Iturbe in order to deploy Florenzi, who has more defensive aptitudes.

A path for the goal? Bayern Munich don't have a real weak-point. They don't prefer a flank in particular for their attacks (36% of offensive actions come from both flanks), while Roma has a predisposition for the right flank (44% of their attacks come from that side), which make them more predictable. But there's a fact that Garcia will have to consider (well, maybe he did it already): Bayern concedes one shot out of four from their right flank (which is remarkable if compared to a 17% of shots conceded from the left). Should Garcia deploy Gervinho on the left to exploit this vulnerability, and Florenzi on the right to give more defensive balance to the team? It could be a wise idea.


Tuesday, October 21 st, 2014
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