Chelsea changes: What Emma Hayes must fix to knock out Bayern in the Champions League second leg – tactical analysis
The UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final’s first leg between Bayern Munich Women and Chelsea Women finished with a 2-1 win for Bayern who got an important advantage on aggregates ahead of the second leg, while the Blues will strive and give their all to turn the table and qualify to the final to face one of Paris Saint Germain or Barcelona.
In this tactical analysis article, we will look at how will both teams perform next Sunday in the second leg, what will be their most likely formations and line-ups, and what tactical plans will they adopt while taking into consideration what happened in the first leg. This preview will be a sort of a pre-match analysis that explores Bayern Munich and Chelsea’s tactics using statistics, player performances, and head coach ideas and plans.
Probable line-ups and formations
Chelsea lost the first leg and will have to play more attacking football to fight for their qualification chances while at the same time ensure that they defend well to not lose everything. Therefore, their task will be more certainly more difficult than Bayern Munich’s who will head to Kingsmeadow while knowing that they are not obliged to attack in order to qualify, and this will make things harder for the Blues even though Bayern Munich will also try to exploit counter-attacks to “kill” the game.
This means that Chelsea will use their best line-up mixing attacking players with players who can keep things safe at the back, and with the possible return of Magdalena Eriksson, Chelsea would more probably defend better than in the first leg. Anyways, that’s what they should do if they want to keep their qualification chances alive.
Emma Hayes would start the game with the 4-2-3-1 formation which transforms to the 4-2-4 formation in attack, and we will explain how below.
Ann-Katrin Berger would be the goalkeeper, Jessica Carter as a right-back instead of the injured Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson (if ready to play, otherwise Sophie Ingle will replace her) as centre-backs with Jonna Andersson as a left-back. The midfield will be formed of Ji So-yun and Melanie Leupolz central midfielders while Fran Kirby will be the right winger, Erin Cuthbert as a left winger, Pernille Harder as an advanced playmaker and Sam Kerr as a striker.
This would be the formation on paper and in some instances of the match, yet, this formation can change to a 4-2-4 formation especially when Chelsea will be attacking, with Kirby and Cuthbert as wingers who cut inside and play inside the box more often and Harder who will advance and be a second striker with Kerr to give more attacking depth and disturb Bayern Munich’s organised defence.
Bayern Munich however will more likely keep their newly adopted 3-5-2 formation which suited the team almost perfectly in the first leg and would probably help to reduce Chelsea’s attacking threat once again in this match, even though that would be more difficult this time.
Scheuer would rely on Laura Benkarth as a goalkeeper, Amanda Ilestedt, Marina Hegering and Simone Laudehr in defence, Hanna Glas and Carolin Simon as wingers, Sydney Lohmann, Sarah Zadrazil and Lina Magull as central midfielders with both Lineth Beerensteyn and Lea Schüller as strikers, while resting Klara Bühl this time since Schüller can be more clinical inside the box in these kinds of games.
How should Chelsea play to ensure qualification
Emma Hayes was probably surprised with the way Bayern Munich played in the first leg, as we all were, given that they used a playing system that they did not use in years and played with the right mentality to not concede away goals while at the same time exploit each and every attacking opportunity they got. And even though Chelsea were a bit lucky in their away goal action, the team’s attacking performance was not so bad and building on what they did in that game while correcting the mistakes will suffice to be more dangerous in the second leg and score the needed goals, knowing that only one goal would turn the tables and give an advantage for the Blues.
Chelsea’s attacking mistakes were mainly related to movements without the ball in Bayern’s half, lack of accuracy in the final pass and in finishing as well. If they succeed in doing better in this regard and play with more confidence while using their physical strength more often to get rid of the excessive Bayern’s marking especially in midfield, Chelsea’s attacking players can then be unstoppable since these players have the technical abilities to harm any defence.
One of Bayern’s most successful defensive plans in the first leg was stopping Chelsea’s build up by not allowing the ball to reach the front three/four and surrounding the two central midfielders Ji and Leupolz. Using the five players employed in midfield helped Scheuer and Bayern in successfully marking these two players and in preventing them from passing so often to one of Kirby, Harder, Kerr or Reiten. And we saw Ji having a hard time finding passing lanes since she faced two or three Bayern midfielders each time she got the ball in midfield, and this prevented her from passing to unmarked players even if they were moving a lot.
To get rid of this midfield pressing and numerical superiority, Harder and both wingers must come closer to Ji and Leupolz to help them in keeping possession, and since these three players have the abilities to advance with the ball or make passing combinations with each other to reach the final third, this alternative would benefit Chelsea by generating more chances and losing the ball less in the build-up.
Chelsea’s attacking threat is usually central, since they rely on Kerr and Harder with Kirby and Cuthbert or Reiten often penetrating from the wings but they usually opt for dribbling internally. Bayern Munich exploited this tendency to go for the central part of the pitch and overloaded it with defenders and midfielders, three in defence and five in midfield. This made Chelsea’s attacks less likely to be dangerous and we saw their attacking players being disturbed a lot even when they were able to shoot. You can see here how Reiten for example was opting for moving internally instead of running towards the wing to take defenders with her and empty the box a bit more not only for Harder and Kerr but also for Ji and Leupolz who may come from behind to shoot or make assists.
One possible solution to this would be to exploit the fact that Bayern play with attacking wingers, Simon and Glas, who advance more than they defend. Since Chelsea are the team required to score, they can exploit this by using Cuthbert and Kirby as wingers who stay wide and advanced when the team is in possession, while Harder and Kerr disturb the three centre-backs by moving inside the box.
This will create confusion in Bayern’s defence and the three centre-backs will be hesitant who to mark especially when Glas and Simon will be away from Cuthbert and Kirby, and whenever one of the centre-backs leans towards the flanks to mark Chelsea’s wingers, Kerr and Harder will have less marking inside the box and will be able to deal better with crosses as they will be able to finish the actions in a more clinical way than in the first leg.
Another key aspect to consider when dealing with Bayern Munich is the frequency of shots and shooting positions. Chelsea were only able to shoot twice on target in the first leg, including Leupolz’s goal, and the rest of shots were either blocked or went off target, and this explains highlights how Chelsea were not dangerous in this match. But in the second leg, the Blues will need to creating shooting opportunities and aim for shooting from distance especially when Bayern defend well. Moreover, and as you can see in the image below, Chelsea did not shoot from the wings at all as they did not rely on their wingers heavily in that match.
Exploiting the spaces on the wings thanks to Kirby and Cuthbert while aiming at shooting or crossing can be very beneficial for Chelsea in this second leg and can easily generate troubles for Bayern’s defence along with shooting from outside the box.
Defensively speaking, Chelsea will need to ensure that they don’t leave a lot of space behind when aiming to score goals, since this could be a double-edged sword if Bayern Munich players succeed in making quick counter-attacks. Also, Chelsea’s problem against Wolfsburg and now against Bayern was defending against wingers and leaving space at the back of the defensive line, which could have resulted in the team’s elimination against Wolfsburg. Knowing that Bayern relies on Simon and Glas, who are two talented and quick players, the four Chelsea defenders will have to be attentive throughout the match to these two players’ movements and penetrations with the help of Ji and Leupolz.
When it comes to statistics, Chelsea and Bayern Munich are two of the biggest teams in Europe at the moment and this can be noticed even by comparing their UEFA Women’s Champions League statistics. These information show that Chelsea has a higher goal expectancy per match and that’s logical given Chelsea’s superior attacking performances this year compared to Bayern’s. But at the same time, Bayern Munich were more realistic and accurate in front of the goal since they shoot more times on target than Chelsea. In terms of defensive performances however, Bayern Munich’s stats are way better in UEFA Women’s Champions League since they are winning more duels, especially defensive ones, and they intercept more balls than Chelsea, as the table shows below.
The conclusion that one can draw out of these statistics is that Bayern Munich are better defensively than Chelsea, while they can also be very clinical in attack when they need to score goals. But at the same times, Chelsea are better in keeping possession and in generating goalscoring chances per match, yet, they must work on finishing the actions with more accuracy and decisiveness if they want to beat teams like Bayern Munich.
This game promises to be even better than the first leg since it will be the deciding match for the finalist of the UEFA Women’s Champions League along with one of Paris Saint Germain or Barcelona. It is true that Bayern Munich have got a precious advantage on aggregates and are able to consolidate this advantage with solid defending and maybe score goals as well, yet, Chelsea are also still in the game and have all the chances to score and qualify to the final if they approach the match with the right mentality and especially with the adequate tactical ideas.