What’s The Matter With … Barcelona lacking a Keita figure?
Two of Bayern Munich’s goals may well be fortunate to stand, but few could argue that the recently-crowned German champions were not good value for their 4-0 defeat of Barcelona.
The Catalan giants were certainly not helped by Lionel Messi looking no more than 50 per cent fit and a schoolboy attitude to set-piece defending, but much like football in a younger age group it was in the centre of midfield where they lost the battle.
Javi Martinez stole the show against his more established national teammates with a fine display of midfield disruption, which included regularly breaking up play, winning a big percentage of tackles and fouling when the situation required.
Once he was booked, Bastien Schweinsteiger took up the charge of pressurising Barca in possession and identifying a way of stopping Barcelona has now become evident.
Bayern did nothing out of the ordinary in terms of tactics, but pressing in the right areas, breaking quickly on the counter attack and being a force from set pieces are the three clear ways that Barcelona can be beaten.
Sergio Busquets was the only player in the Barcelona ranks able to compete physically in midfield, but he was unable to get into the game. What Barcelona needed was to shift Andres Iniesta wide and have another dominant presence alongside Xavi.
And Barcelona have had such players in the not too distant past, but even including the arrival of Alex Song, in reality Seydou Keita and Yaya Toure have not been replaced.
Keita may not have been a natural fit into Barca’s tika-taka style, but the fact he started the away legs in the Champions League semi finals of 2009, 2010 and 2011 goes to show his importance to the squad for certain fixtures.
He would have added some extra height at set pieces too and generally kept the midfield tighter.
Meanwhile, Toure’s trademark driving runs would have offered something different and given Martinez and Schweinsteiger more of a physical test.
The result means Barcelona are now 33/1 to lift the trophy, with Bayern clear favourites to win the Champions League at 3/4.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.