Well… that was… not what I expected.

(tears up previous post)

Here are three halftime thoughts after 45 minutes of Barcelona v Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp:

Manuel Neuer is an octopus.

In a two-leg playoff tie like this, goalkeepers have an even greater impact than they do over a domestic league season. A single massive save can bail out an under-performing team and a string of brilliance like Neuer’s in the first half can turn an entire tie on its head. Realistically this should probably be 2-0 or 3-1–Suarez had multiple great looks at goal and Dani Alves had a nice one-on-one near the end of the half. Neuer stood tall each time.

This is a point I’ve brought up in the newsletter before–the format of a cup competition favors teams that can beat the Expected Goals numbers. Goalkeepers like Manuel Neuer allow you to do that.

Suarez’s finishing is sometimes his biggest weakness.

That was the book on the Uruguayan when he came to England, of course. Tons of tricks, great movement, wonderful work-rate, and a good footballing brain. But sometimes his finishing can fail him. On his bad days Suarez is like the basketball player who misses the layup but drains the 28-foot buzzer beater three pointer. He had several nice looks at goal today and failed to finish each time. While his finishing has come on in a big way since his first year in England it can still fail him at times–and it did in the first half today.

The flat 4-4-2 makes its second appearance in as many days.

After a suicidal first 15 minutes, Pep switched Bayern to the 4-4-2. It did limit Barcelona’s space slightly, but it still leaves the Catalans with plenty of room between the lines. That said, the midfield four is well-positioned to shield the defense and limit Rakitic and Iniesta’s time on the ball–which may be the best you can hope to do against this Barcelona side.

That said, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez will continue to find pockets of space. And Lionel Messi almost certainly will too. So Neuer is going to need to maintain his stunning performance in the first half to keep this score close.

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