Barça’s first game of the 2013/14 preseason ended with a 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich this evening. Philipp Lahm headed Pep Guardiola’s new team into an early lead and the German victory was sealed with a late goal from Mario Mandzukic. Barça’s new coach Tata Martino will not be formally presented until Friday which meant Jordi Roura was again in charge of the team and few conclusions can be taken when eight of Barça’s Spanish internationals plus the Brazilians Dani Alves and Neymar are still on holiday and Barça fielded two completely different XIs for the two halves.
Barça wore the new Senyera away shirt for the first time and it took less than half a minute for Leo Messi to run at the German defence before firing a shot just wide from the edge of the area. However, Bayern were soon in control with Franck Ribery causing most of the problems for Barça’s defence. In the fourth minute the Frenchman slipped away from Martin Montoya before getting past Marc Bartra and sending in a low cross to Arjen Robben at the far post but Adriano denied the Dutchman a goal by clearing off the line.
Bayern clearly had the better of the opening exchanges and Pinto had already beaten away shots from Robben and David Alaba when the Germans took the lead in the 14th minute. Again it was Ribery creating the chance, the Frenchman receiving the ball out on the left before curling in a deep right-footed cross that found Lahm jumping in front of Mascherano to flick a header past Pinto.
Barça were struggling against Bayern’s high press with Bartra particularly being hurried into some poor passes. For once, Barça were being beaten at possession; however, there was the occasional break which threatened Neuer’s goal. Sergi Roberto came close to an equalizer after combining with Montoya but after bursting into the area the young midfielder poked his shot wide of the far post.
Thiago Alcántara must have been highly motivated to play against his ex-teammates so soon after his controversial move to Munich. He looked lively early on and he came close to a scoring opportunity in the 21st minute but Alaba’s return pass didn’t make it back to Thiago after an attempted one-two in the area.
Thomas Muller then threatened with two runs at the Barça defence, from the first he fired a shot over from the edge of the area and from the second his low cross was cleared by Adriano. At the other end Johnathan dos Santos fired over from 25 yards then in the 33rd minute Messi hit a free kick well wide.
Ribery continued to be Bayern’s most dangerous player. In the 36th minute he cracked a low snap-shot that went straight at Pinto and both Mascherano and Bartra saw yellow cards in quick succession for fouls on the Frenchman. Cristian Tello came close for Barça with a low shot after getting past Jerome Boateng but the ball failed to curl sufficiently and went just wide of the far post. Then in the 44th minute Alexis crossed from the right and Bayern’s right back Rafinha, endeavoring to stop the ball reaching Sergi Roberto, chested the ball against his own post. It was the closest Barça came to a goal all night but it would have been an injustice to Bayern on the balance of play if Barça had gone in on level terms at half-time.
For the second half Barça fielded a team made up entirely of Barça B players. Guardiola, on the other hand, made just three half time changes, preferring to make his other seven substitutions during the second period. It was good experience for the Barça youngsters and they generally gave a very good showing; however, Bayern, despite a drop in their intensity, continued to dominate.
It took the Germans ten minutes to create a second-half chance. Then Ribery again showed his skill on the left before sending in a low drive that was well stopped by Oier Olazábal. A minute later Kiko Femenia had to be quick to block Thiago’s effort. Then in the 62nd minute a poor ball from Oier to Carlos Planas led to Ribery setting up a chance for Mandzukic but Oier made up for his mistake, diving low to push the Croatian’s shot out for a corner.
Bayern began to lose their rhythm due to all the substitutions while Barça’s youngsters played a competent but cautious possession game with good performances from Patric Gabarrón and Javi Espinosa. There was little threat of a Barça equalizer with the best combination coming from Patric and Joan Angel Roman with five minutes remaining but Patric was caught offside. Then just a couple of minutes later Carles Planas failed to move up, leaving Diego Contento onside and his low cross gave Mandzukic an easy sidefoot finish from close in.
It’s never good to start with a defeat but given the circumstances it could have been much worse. We were up against last season’s Champions League winners and the Germans had already played eight preseason games and were therefore in better physical shape. We were also without ten star players while suffering the unplanned transitional period between coaches. There is definitely room for improvement and it is perhaps not a good sign when there were more positives to be taken from the second half Barça B performance than from the first half.
Bayern: Neuer (Starke h/t); Rafinha (Emre Can m73), Boateng (Kirchhoff m68), Dante (Van Buyten m59), Alaba; Lahm (Luiz Gustavo m59), Thiago (Pizarro m74), Kroos (Schweinsteiger m68); Robben (Shaqiri h/t), Muller (Mandzukic h/t), Ribery (Contento m68).
Barça (first half): Pinto; Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Dos Santos, Song, Sergi Roberto; Alexis, Messi, Tello.
Barça (second half): Oier; Femenia, Sergi Gomez, Planas, Patric; Jordi Quintilla, Ilie, Espinosa; Joan Roman, Dongou, Dani Nieto.
Goals: m14 Lahm 1-0, m88 Mandzukic.
Yellow cards: m41 Mascherano, m43 Bartra,