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The Big Match Tactical View: Bayern Munich v Juventus

Claudio Marchisio will lead Juventus' midfield charge

"Claudio Marchisio will be deployed in a more advanced position."
Back Marchisio to score at 8.0

With Juventus set to change formation for this match, Michael Cox considers the likely consequences.

Bayern Munich v Juventus, Tuesday 7:45, Sky Sports 2.

Match Odds: Bayern Munich 1.654/6, Juventus 6.411/2, The Draw 4.1n/a.

Bayern Munich's confidence in possession this season has been remarkable. In the Champions League, only Barcelona boast a higher pass completion rate and more possession than the German league leaders this season - and their midfield dominance means Juventus coach Antonio Conte is considering changing his formation especially for this first leg.

Last summer's purchase of Javi Martinez changed the balance of Bayern's midfield, and made them even more reliable in possession, but the Spaniard is absent tonight, with Luiz Gustavo set to replace him. Bastian Schweinsteiger will break forward into attack, shuttling between a deep midfield role and a position alongside Toni Kroos, Bayern's clever playmaker.

Juventus' usual three-man midfield - Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio - is probably a match for Bayern's trio, at least on paper. However, it seems Conte will change his system to help Juve compete in the centre of the Allianz Arena pitch.

Paul Pogba is set to be drafted into the side. The young Frenchman has been extremely impressive in recent months for Juventus, and showed his ability against the world's most talented central midfielders when performing well for France against Spain last week (although he was sent off towards the end of the game). The use of Pogba in a defensive-minded role would push Claudio Marchisio higher up the pitch, in support of a lone striker - probably Mirko Vucinic - and change Juventus from a 3-5-2 to a 3-5-1-1.

Some may argue this shows Juve's fear of Bayern dominating, but it's a shrewd move from Conte's point of view. This change of formation is significant enough to have a major impact on the balance of the side, but subtle enough that the defensive structure won't change - it will still be three centre-backs and three central midfielders, with wing-backs charging up and down the touchlines.

Besides, Juve's one weakness is their lack of reliable centre-forwards - leaving out one of Alessandro Matri, Sebastian Giovinco or Fabio Quagliarella isn't a big problem, especially because Marchisio specialises in making well-timed forward runs to the edge of the box.

The midfield is absolutely key to this contest. Kroos will be a particularly important player - in recent years he's shown a tremendous ability to perform in the big games, darting back and forth between different positions, helping to overload the opposition in various zones. He can play close to Mario Mandzukic or drop deeper to help out in midfield - if Juve pack the centre of the pitch, expect to see him in a deep role.

But Bayern may also attempt to attack down Juventus' left. Bayern switched their attention to the right in the previous round against Arsenal - when Thomas Vermaelen was deployed out of position - and it's fair to say the left-wing-back role is one of the few positions Juventus don't have sorted. Either Federico Peluso or Kwadwo Asamoah will play there - Peluso is the more likely, as a more defensive option, but he lacks the strength of Juve's other defenders.

Kroos, Schweinsteiger and right-back Philipp Lahm will all charge forward to create two-against-one situations with Thomas Muller - expect Giorgio Chiellini to get out quickly and help.

That's where Juve might encounter difficulties - down the flanks. By packing the centre of the pitch, they'll leave themselves vulnerable in other zones - expect Lahm and left-back David Alaba to charge forward whenever possible, stretching the play.

Bayern, meanwhile, must watch two players. First, Pirlo's influence on Juve is enormous - and although his precise position is undecided with Pogba likely to come in, Bayern must nullify him. In Italy's 2-0 win over Germany at Euro 2012, Kroos did a poor job trying to track Pirlo - he must get closer this time around.

Second, Marchisio will be even more dangerous in an advanced role. The attacking midfielder has a habit of coming up with goals on the big occasion, and I'll back him to score at 8.07/1.

Recommended bet:
Back Marchisio to score at 8.0

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01 April 2013

Champions League

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