The opening Champions League game for both sides in Group E ending exactly how Bayern wanted and denied Manchester City at least a point from the tough opening game. What was interesting is the way Bayern manager Pep Guardiola set his team up and how Pellegrini (completing a touchline suspension) changed his usual 4-4-2 formation for a tricky away fixture and how both teams and managers tried to counter each ones weakness.
Bayern in truth could have been ahead as early as the 1st minute as Thomas Mueller raced through the City defence after a flick from Robert Lewandowski split Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis, unfortunately for Mueller he lost his balance after pressure from Bacary Sagna as he rounded Joe Hart and put his attempt wide.
Guardiola had set his team up in a fluid 3-4-3 formation with Jerome Boateng, new signing Mehdi Benatia and David Alaba as the three centre-halves and Rafinha and Juan Bernat filling the wing-back roles while Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso occupied the central midfield berths. Robert Lewandowski operated as the focal point of the attack with Thomas Muller and Mario Götze in support.
Pellegrini decided to alter his tactical line-up for the away trip to a 4-5-1 as he left Sergio Aguero on the bench and plumped for the power of Edin Džeko in the lone frontman role. This move saw David Silva shifted from his usual left inside-forward role into the no.10 position while Jesus Navas was brought in to operate on the right-wing with Samir Nasri on the left. City had great success in this fixture last season, with Silva operating behind the lone Džeko.
However, where City had problems was in their usual strong area – midfield. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho seemed extremely uncomfortable with the movement of not only Götze and Mueller but of Lahm and Alonso too. Toure especially seemed uncomfortable throughout with the amount of running he had to do just to keep up with the Bayern midfield.
Where City looked to capitalise on the Bayern setup was through wide play, in particular Jesus Navas was given the task of driving Juan Bernat back towards his own goal and get in behind him at times. However, where the plan failed was Samir Nasri, on the left, failed to do that. Instead, Rafinha was given free reign. City won the game last year largely thanks to the performance of James Milner on the left wing, in which he continually streatched Lahm and restricted the German’s influence down that wing. Nasri was left unable to influence the game in either direction, which prompted a change from Pellegrini in the 2nd half.
In order to combat Bayern’s midfield, James Milner was finally drafted into the centre in place of Samir Nasri just before the hour mark while David Silva returned to his inside-left role while Yaya Toure was relieved from his difficult night briefly by shifting to the no.10 role. The move failed to have the exact desired effect, as Bayern continued to dominate possession and when Guardiola brought Arjen Robben on in place of Muller, with the attacks starting to flow down the Munich right.
In what was a complete contrast to the last time when these two sides met, last season in the Champions League group stage, City were not able to influence Bayern through the consistent high pressing and quick wing-play which had undone the German giants during City’s 3-2 victory at the Allianz Arena. Instead, they became camped within their own half and while Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis defended manfully they were not helped by the midfield in terms of gifting the Bayern attackers space in which to turn and shoot on Joe Hart’s goal.
It was only a matter of time before City were punished and when they were it arrived through an unlikely source. Former City defender Jerome Boateng capitalised on a poor attempted clearance and subsequently he proceeded to half volley the ball (via a deflection off Germany’s World Cup winning goalscorer) into the net and past the despairing Joe Hart.