October 22, 2017

Do Bayern and Dortmund Have the Edge in Their Champions League Round-of-8 Draws?

Can ether of the two remaining German sides win the Champions?

The Champions League quarter-finals draw threw up some mouth-watering fixtures last Friday, as the Bundesliga’s two remaining representatives handed tricky match-ups. German champions Bayern Munich face Real Madrid in arguably the tie of the round, while Borussia Dortmund will take on French Ligue 1 leaders Monaco.

With both sides in form and entering the last eight of Europe’s elite competition in style, do either German power have a chance to win the tournament?

Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid

Of course, Bayern are probably the more likely of the two to make it to the final in Cardiff, but there is little doubting that Madrid represent a sizeable hurdle in the Bavarian outfit’s hopes of adding a sixth European title. Carlo Ancelotti’s men started the campaign in slower-than-usual fashion, giving the rest of the Bundesliga an unlikely look-in for a change. However, in recent months it has been business as usual for Die Roten, with Bayern powering their way back to the top of German football and looking ominous in Europe.

The odds at LeoVegas Sportwetten give the Bavarians very short for winning an unprecedented 5th consecutive Bundesliga title, but with the glut of domestic success, it’s surely the Champions League crown that Bayern’s supporters hunger for the most right now, especially after a fallow UCL run during Pep Guardiola’s four seasons in charge.

Bayern were ruthless in their swatting aside of Arsenal in the last 16, winning both legs 5-1 in quite the statement of intent by the German team. However, against Real and Europe’s other top sides, Ancelotti’s charges will face a much-more menacing proposition and will need to be at their best to prevail. The first leg against the current European champions is at the Allianz Arena and going to Madrid with an advantage will be crucial if Bayern are to make it to the semi-finals.

Of course, Ancelotti’s sides traditionally thrive in these situations, so does the new veteran coach give Bayern an edge in this match up?

In many ways, Bayern and Real are statistically equivalent sides this season in terms of raw count stats. In fact the sides rank right next to each other on nearly every conventional category:

  • Shots per match: Bayern (17.1), Real (17.3).
  • Shots on target per match: Bayern (6.4), Real (6.6).
  • Key Passes per match: Bayern (14.2), Real (13.7).
  • Goals per match: Bayern (2.6), Real (2.4).
  • Dribbles per match: Bayern (11.6), Real (10.5).

One of the only conventional differences is that Bayern is Europe’s most possession dominant club (65% possession per match), while Real is less so (55% possession per match). These rates are born out by Bayern’s staggering passing output (721 passes per match — the most Europe!) contrasted with Real Madrid (527 passes per match — *only* the 16th most in Europe). Furthermore, Bayern is also a bit actively, aerially, while Real relies more on tackles and Bayern relies more on interceptions. In a superficial sense, Real appears like the more physical side.

So we have two clubs who are prolific goal scorers, yet dissimilar in ball movement and defensive strategies. Sounds just like the kind of dynamic match up we’re used to these two storied powers offering us.

In their previous 6 Champions League meetings, Bayern and Real each have 3 wins. In these six matches, spanning from 2012 to 2016, Bayern has only scored 4 goals, while Real has scored 9. Oddly, the away side has won three in a row in this series. Did we mention that the first leg (Wednesday, April 12th) is at the Allianz Arena? Time to get superstitious.

Over two legs, however, Bayern has to be the slight favorites, given Ancelotti’s acumen in guiding teams through knockout tournaments, Bayern’s almost perfectly health roster, and Bayern’s slightly more dominating form entering the match up. Oh, and the Bavarians have Thiago — the early pick for the Bundesliga’s Player of the Year. He could be the difference maker.

Borussia Dortmund vs AS Monaco

On the other side of the draw, Dortmund face a Monaco side that continues to impress and that has lit up French and European football this season with its attacking intent.

Thomas Tuchel’s men powered their way into the last eight of Europe’s elite with a crushing 4-0 win over Benfica in the second leg of the round of 16. Dortmund will feel encouraged that they have avoided one of the continent’s real powerhouses in the draw and as such a semi-finals berth is a real possibility. In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Ruhr Valley outfit possess one of world football’s most-devastating number nines, while the supporting cast is loaded with top-notch international talent. Dortmund are also renowned for their attacking play and as such the games against Monaco look set to be open, offensive affairs.

Leonardo Jardim’s men are top of Ligue 1 currently and have netted an incredible 84 goals in 29 games this season. Monaco overcame a star-studded Manchester City side in the last round and the Principality outfit possess an array of talent, such as Falcao and Fabinho, as well as young stars like Bernardo Silva and especially Kylian Mbappe, who will severely test Dortmund’s defense.

Monaco is Europe’s 2nd leading scoring side, averaging 2.8 goals per match (only Barcelona averages more with 2.9 goal per match). Strikingly, Monaco *only* produce 13.8 shots per match, 24th best in Europe; however, Monaco’s 6.2 shots on target per match is 6th most in Europe. Quality over quantity. No wonder the French side has been able to compile all those goals this season. The resurrected Falcao leads his side with 16 goals this season, while Mbappe is next with 12 goals. The club’s Key Pass men are Silva and young Frenchman Thomas Lemar. Two-thirds of Monaco’s goal have come from open play (56) with a third from set pieces (18!) and penalties (11). Monaco’s attack is powered on 51% possession per match, meaning the club is not a patient, build-from-the-back unit, but rather relatively speedy, attacking through either wing on the counter.

This attacking style is, in someways, the most dangerous for Tuchel’s BVB to face, who leave space and few markers guarding the back during its own attacking, leaving itself vulnerable to counters.

Yet Monaco probably hasn’t faced an attack as potent as BVB’s all season. Indeed, BVB’s is basically Monaco’s equal in terms of creating shots / shots on target / and Key Passes per match. And arguably the Germans have faced tougher competition in the Bundesliga, contrasted with Monaco in Ligue 1. However, Monaco’s 2.8 goals per match vs. BVB’s 2.1 goals per match does stand out. Is side better at “finishing” than the other? Is one side more lucky or unlucky relative to the other? Does one somehow create higher quality shooting opportunities?

This match up could be the exciting one of the round of 8, if you’re looking for attack, attack, attack, flow, flow, flow, and move, move, move. It’ll be super fun.

Given BVB‘s UCL experience over these past years and ability to generate deadly against any side in Europe, the Germans might be the slightest of favorites, although if we’re being honest about their own (in?)ability to defend Monaco’s attack, the match up could just as be a toss-up.

Anyhow, there’s a fair chance that we could see not one, but two Bundesliga sides in the Champions Final Four this year. Anyone else seeing the ghosts of Wembley 2013?

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