Chelsea should stay in the 3-4-3 to counteract Bayern Munich’s many threats

LILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 02: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea speaks with Mason Mount of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Lille OSC and Chelsea FC at Stade Pierre Mauroy on October 02, 2019 in Lille, France. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
LILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 02: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea speaks with Mason Mount of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Lille OSC and Chelsea FC at Stade Pierre Mauroy on October 02, 2019 in Lille, France. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

Bayern Munich come to Stamford Bridge with all the advantages, but Chelsea need only a small amount of good fortune to top off smart tactics for a win.

Chelsea and Bayern Munich have met very rarely in European competition. Each team has won two of their four meetings, with Chelsea being the only club to win at the other’s home. The Blues have the upper hand, though, as they advanced to the Champions League semifinals at Bayern’s expense in the 2004/05 season and then won the Champions League title at the Allianz Arena in 2012. Bayern Munich got some semblance of revenge two years later, beating Chelsea on penalties in the 2014 Super Cup.

Chelsea fans will be filled with nostalgia in the lead up to this game, and rightly so. But if one goes by recent form, Chelsea fans everywhere will be filled with dread.

Since Hansi Flick was appointed as head coach after Niko Kovac’s sacking in November, Bayern have lost just two games in all competitions. They’ve been unbeaten for more than two months. Chelsea, in that same period, have just garnered 18 points from 15 league games.

That alone might be enough to brand Bayern Munich the favourites. Another factor towards that status is their significant squad depth, highlighted by how Philippe Coutinho is not a regular starter in Bundesliga games.

Compare that to the veritable hospital ward which Chelsea has become, and you get an idea of who is odds-on to win the tie.

But football is not won on paper nor is it won by logic. There are always intangibles that can tilt a tie in unpredictable directions.

This year’s Champions League has shown how there are no real favourites to win it, with several of the major clubs demonstrating ample vulnerabilities. Bayern Munich is no different, but are still in better shape to win the competition than Barcelona or Juventus. Bayern are the sixth team in Champions League history to have won all six group stage games.

But, again, in the past week Liverpool lost away to goal-shy Atletico Madrid; RB Leipzig played their maiden knockout stage game by going to Tottenham and schooling Jose Mourinho’s Spurs; Borussia Dortmund found a way to nullify Paris Saint-Germain’s attacking threats, and Atalanta thrashed a team with a wage budget well in excess of their own.

Chelsea have more than a boxer’s chance of knocking out Bayern. The tactics need to be spot-on and impeccably executed – that’s it.

Bayern Munich under Hansi Flick have been very enjoyable to watch. He has transformed the team tactically, showing more nous than the erstwhile Niko Kovac.

During his time in charge, he has chopped and changed between a four-man and a three-man backline. This is has helped him cope with injuries to key defensive personnel. He has made Joshua Kimmich into a defensive midfielder and David Alaba into a centre back. They have been solid in that time in those positions.

Flick also has played Coutinho in his best position as a No. 10 behind the striker. Thiago has been in the form of his life since the winter break. Leon Goretzka has also had an impact when given the opportunity. Thomas Muller has also been having his best creative season having supplied 15 assists thus far. Plus they have Robert Lewandowski, one of the best and most clinical strikers in the world. In their match on Friday against Paderborn, Bayern were given an almighty scare with Paderborn almost snatching a point. Lewandowski scored go-ahead goals in the 70′ and 88′.

Bayern Munich won’t take the game lightly, and Chelsea cannot count them out until the final whistle, no matter how much fortune or the run of play seems to favour the Blues.

So how do Chelsea nullify Bayern’s attack? Frank Lampard needs to be pragmatic and go for a 0-0 draw or even a smash-and-grab 1-0 victory from the start. It’s probably against his principles, but with all the injuries he’s better served by keeping Bayern goalless and take the game to Munich on even keeling.

At the moment, Chelsea have a premium of defenders in their team and would be better served by playing a 3-4-3. Bayern will probably go with a 4-2-3-1, with Coutinho at No. 10; Kimmich and Thiago anchoring the base; Muller and Serge Gnabry off the wings; and Lucas Hernandez, Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Benjamin Pavard in the backline.

The 3-4-3 will allow Chelsea to better cover the pitch and would have the much-needed width to make the pitch bigger while attacking. Marcos Alonso and Reece James excel as wingbacks. They should aim to pin Hernandez and Pavard back, not allowing them the space and time to bomb forward.

Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger should be the three central defenders. Azpilicueta and Rudiger will need to mark Gnabry and Muller, respectively, and carefully. Azpilicueta will need to be especially careful as he is one yellow away from a suspension.

Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho should be the men in midfield, and will need to pressure and harry and take turns frustrating Coutinho. They should not give him the time and space to pick a pass or even fire off a shot from outside the box. Kovacic will need to do the tactical fouling because Jorginho is also one yellow away from a suspension.

The inside forwards on the day need to be Mason Mount and Willian, both because of their work rate and their pressing. They will have to press Kimmich and Thiago intensely, not allowing them any easy passes to relieve the pressure.

The centre-forward on the day should be Olivier Giroud for his intelligent movement in the box. He will bring Mount and Willian into play as they will be tucked in close to him. This will also give Tammy Abraham time to recover from his injury.

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Chelsea’s win against Tottenham saw the successful implementation of the 3-4-3 formation, with the only difference being Ross Barkley instead of Willian. Barkley was quite impressive. Though he wasn’t a pest like Mount was, he provided productive connections and showed the awareness to get the ball to Marcos Alonso to score the second goal. He deserves to be in contention for the Bayern game.

One caveat when comparing the Tottenham win to the upcoming Bayern game is that the Blues’ performance came against an insipid Spurs who were showcasing a defeatist attitude. Things wont be as easy against Bayern.

Chelsea can take inspiration from Atalanta, who play man-to-man across the pitch, which could a useful factor against Bayern’s individual quality.

Next. Opposite directions of Giroud and Kepa, and other lessons learned in win over Spurs. dark

This could be the most intriguing tie in the Champions League between two young, exciting but ultimately inexperienced coaches at the Champions League stage. On paper everything tilts in one direction, but on the pitch, Chelsea know as well as anyone that anything can happen.