Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola is on his guard, but axe won't fall despite rout
Pep Guardiola is no closer to the Bayern Munich exit after losing 3-0 to Barcelona, despite his tactical master plan coming undone after just 15 minutes at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
The experiment to start the Champions League semi-final first leg with three at the back and right-back Rafinha on the left of the defence was quickly ditched, but the feeling that Bayern were beaten by the brilliance of Lionel Messi and by their own injury problems dominated the inquest into the defeat.
Guardiola, a reported target of deposed Premier League champions Manchester City, could be seen frantically shouting to senior players Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm after a quarter of an hour to revert to a back four after a flurry of early Barcelona chances.
It was actually in the latter stages of the game that Bayern conceded and even the absence of a single shot on target by them was not used to bury the Spanishmanager.
Bayern have a difficult summer ahead, with Guardiola unlikely to sign an extension to the one year he has left on his current deal and an ageing squad in desperate need of renovation, but there was no "Pep out" furore yesterday when the Bayern party arrived back in Munich.
Criticism had come from other quarters. Gary Lineker called the high pressing employed by the Germans as "tactical suicide" on Twitter.
And Javier Mascherano said after the game: "We know that Pep Guardiola always plays to win and they came to press high, but sometimes when you do that you take a risk with the players that we have."
Guardiola's decision to employ Rafinha on the left of the defensive three was not without precedent.
The quickest player in Bayern's defence was deployed there to track Messi's diagonal runs from the right touchline, but once the Argentine ace switched to the centre, changing places with Luis Suarez, there was less point in the Brazilian playing out of position and he shifted back to familiar territory as Bayern reverted to a back four.
Rafa Benitez used right-back Alvaro Arbeloa to the same effect against Messi and Atletico Madrid tried it with far less success with Jesus Gamez this season.
Guardiola's team did have the larger share of possession and that was something he highlighted after the game.
"We wanted to dominate possession and push them back," he said.
"We wanted them to have to run more than us, but when you play with three at the back you have to make sure you do those things, and we were not able to. With four at the back we were more solid, but then we lacked the ability to cause them problems up front."
Guardiola seemed most upset about Barcelona's third goal.
"With a 2-0 we have more of a chance in the second leg," he lamented of the late strike by Neymar.
Midfielder Alonso laughed at a reporter who asked after the game if he believed a comeback was possible in the second leg.
Even if Guardiola fails to produce an incredible turnaround, he needs a home win next Tuesday.
Bayern have won the league and are out of the German Cup so the second match represents a final of sorts - one that will restore some pride.
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