If there is one Champions league game other than the Dortmund vs PSG tie that promises goals and exciting football, then it’s Bayern Munich vs Chelsea. Both clubs have a different coach from last season but the two clubs are in very opposite phases at the moment. Bayern are looking to win their seventh Bundesliga title in a row while Chelsea – affected by a transfer ban – are fighting to finish in the Champions League spots in the Premier League.
Chelsea have been bold and beautiful under Frank Lampard but inconsistency has been a problem for them. Meanwhile, Hansi Flick has turned Bayern into a ruthless winning machine since taking over from Niko Kovac at the beginning of November. The Bavarians will be hoping to have a much-improved performance on 25th February as compared to last season’s overly cautious game against Liverpool, while Chelsea almost have nothing to lose.
Will Bayern set up in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3?
In my opinion, Bayern will use the 4-3-3 in London and we will see the 4-2-3-1 in Munich. Bayern are a possession-based side and they will look to dominate the ball at Stamford bridge as well. Bayern will know that Chelsea will thrive in an open, end-to-end game. Expect Thiago, and Goretzka to start in front of Joshua Kimmich.
The two biggest questions for Hansi Flick will be whether to start with Thomas Muller (who has 15 assists this season) or go for a pacey winger and whether to go with Jerome Boateng or go with Lucas Hernandez and David Alaba – which will mean two left-footed centre-backs for the Bundesliga champions.
Kingsley Coman is back from injury and it is no secret that Chelsea’s fullbacks leave a lot of space when they go forward, so do not be surprised if Bayern start with Thomas “space interpreter” Muller in a 4-2-3-1.
Hansi Flick, who is the interim manager at Bayern right now, will be fighting for his future. As reported by BILD this week, Flick’s bid for the permanent job in Munich will depend on results in five eliminations games (Two against Chelsea, DFB Cup quarterfinal against Schalke and two potential games in Champions League last eight). The former assistant to the German National team has steadied Bayern when they were struggling under Niko Kovac and he has impressed with a possession-based style of attacking football.
Predicted Bayern XI – Neuer, Benjamin Pavard, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, Alphonso Davis, Joshua Kimmich, Thiago Alcantara, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski
How will Frank Lampard approach this game?
Unfortunately for the Blues, N’golo Kante is unavailable after suffering an abductor injury against Manchester United. So, will Lampard start with a back five or 4-2-3-1?. Chelsea are short of options in midfield and the injuries to Callum Hudson-Odoi (tight hamstring), Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (lack of match fitness) will not help. Furthermore, Tammy Abraham suffered an ankle injury against Arsenal and he is a doubt for this game after he sat out on Monday against Manchester United and was on the bench against Tottenham Hotspur.
Going with a back five will make a lot of sense for Chelsea if Abraham is not fully fit. Michy Batshuayi showed against United that he is not up to the task of leading the line on his own, so Lampard might go with a back five, a system that he has regularly used this season. Chelsea can deploy a midfield two of Jorginho and Kovacic, Pedro and Willian upfront with Oliver Giroud as the striker. The goalkeeper situation will very interesting because Lampard has dropped the underperforming Kepa Arrizabalaga for Willy Caballero in league games against Leicester City, United, and Spurs.
Chelsea’s Predicted XI – Caballero, Cesar Azpillicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Marcos Alonso, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Pedro, Willian, Giroud
How do Chelsea stop Robert Lewandowski?
Chelsea should man-mark the Bayern striker with Rudiger or Azpillcuata. We rarely see man-marking in top-level football but Chelsea can actually eliminate Bayern Munich if they mark the Polish forward out of the game. This season, Lewandowski has scored 38 goals, in all competitions, for the Bundesliga club, including 10 in the Champions League and he is the only player to score 40+ goals for club and country since August 2019. Most of his goals look easy because of clever movement and positioning which is the secret to his success and incredible numbers. Man-marking can help Chelsea to stop the Bavarian hitman.
This is a very difficult tie for Chelsea. Aside from the injuries, they lack the experience of the Bayern Munich side that is used to winning regularly and competing in these massive games. This season, Chelsea have occasionally played really well, dominated the game, but still did not win the match, like 4-4 vs Ajax, 1-2 vs Liverpool, 2-2 draw with Valencia and in all three defeats against Manchester United. If the Blues can nullify Lewandoski in this tie, then they have a great opportunity to pull another upset but if the Bavarians can get away goals in London, then they are likely to finish the job in Munich.
Prediction – An entertaining 2-2 draw.
Written by Hammad Pervez