Enter a Familiar Foe: Bayern Munich
Chelsea’s opposition for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals could end up being perennial German giants FC Bayern Munich Frauen. Not an unfamiliar opponent, Chelsea last faced the Bavarian side in their run to the 2021 Final, with that ending 5-3 in favor of the Blues. While both teams have been generally successful in this competition, both are looking for their first title.
How They Got Here
Due to the overall coefficient from the German leagues, Bayern began this year’s competition in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. Drawing Spanish newcomers, Real Sociedad Femenino, Bayern was expected to advance to the group stages. Playing at neutral sites for the two legs, they got past them convincing with a four-to-one aggregate score.
After being drawn into a group with FC Barcelona, Rosengård, and Benfica, Munich opened with a 2-1 victory over the Swedish giants. They followed that up with a 3-2 win over Benfica. Following the opening two matches, Munich impressively split the two matches against Barcelona, defeating them 3-1 at home after losing 3-0 at Camp Nou. They ended up winning the remainder of their games, beating Benfica and Rosengård. Ending with 15 out of 18 points, Munich ended up second in their group behind FC Barcelona on goal difference.
In the group stage, Bayern totaled fourteen goals. Ten different players scored those goals. Leading the way with three goals each was summer signing Georgia Stanway and talented academy product Klara Bühl. Eight different players scored the other eight goals. Their ability to pass the buck and share the responsibility of finding the back of the net is always valuable. Having one of your leading scorers come from the midfield is important. It will change how defenses prepare and can create more open space for others in the final third.
Offensively, they performed better than the metrics expected. Their xG over those six matches is 8.5, giving them a +5.5 G-xG from the group stage. While this stat is good, even better is that they scored their fourteen goals on 32 shots on target. Creating a 43.75% success rate is a superbly high conversion. Even their shot accuracy is an impressive 41.55%, with 32 of their 77 shots being on target. Combined with ten assists on their 14 goals, there is an understanding of the offensive flow and their teammate’s tendencies. Offensively, this team can flow and push against any opposition that they face.
Possessing the Ball
Like many teams’ current tactics, Bayern looks to possess the ball. They want to be able to grow their attack from defense to offense. In the six group games, they had 51% possession. This includes the two games against Barcelona, who are known for their ball retention and passing play. They also completed passes at a rate of 83.34 percent (2439/2883), but their crossing accuracy dipped to 25 percent (26/102).
In the two matches against Barcelona, Bayern had 31% possession and 33% possession. Winning the game while being out-possessed does show a capability of finding a way to grind out a result. By primarily focusing on counter-attacking play, they overcame the favorites for the best team in Europe in one match. While they were outplayed away from home, they were able to find a way through offensively. Ultimately being able to lock down and bunker in defensively.
A Blossoming Defense
Bayern’s defensive record has improved as the competition progressed. Overall they gave up seven goals in the six matches but ended the group stage with two clean sheets. Of those seven goals, all came from open play, with the keeper saving one chance from the spot. Including the penalty, they gave up 30 shots on target, a roughly 23.3% conversion rate. This could come down to poor defense or a young goalkeeper developing throughout the tournament.
Maria-Luisa Grohs started all six matches for the German outfit at the age of 21. Holding a 76.6 percent save percentage, including a penalty, shows the talent is there. There could be some worry that with her age, there will be errors, which could pose problems as they face tougher opposition. With everything considered, the team did have an xG of 8.0, so they were slightly above the curve in preventing goals.
As a defensive unit, Bayern won 78 of their attempted 120 tackles. Most of these tackles were in the defensive third, which, while useful, can be troubling since it means they are not getting themselves into good transitional positions. Being able to turn defensive situations into an attack can be critical to getting through the tougher opposition. If you include their interceptions, you look at 157 completed tackles and interceptions in 199 attempted defensive actions. This converts at 78.89%, which again can be a good platform to launch defense into attack.
Bayern may not be the same juggernaut they once were, but they are a good outfit that can give teams trouble. As seen by their home result against Barcelona, they are not someone who will go quietly into the night. Having a young goalkeeper could be worrying as the moment might get to her, but the balance of experience and youth gives this side confidence in their abilities. A team that grew into the tournament could have the potential to pull a surprise in the quarterfinals. If they can find a way to continue the defensive fortitude in the final three games of the group, they can pose a tough nut to crack while having the attacking depth to trouble their opposition.