Chelsea’s match against Bayern Munich was only a pre-season game, yes, but it was still Chelsea versus Bayern Munich, two of Europe’s biggest teams facing off. This was only the third match between the two sides in the last ten years. There was of course the famous 2012 Champions League final, which Chelsea won in penalties. Then the last matchup, the 2013 UEFA Super Cup that Bayern won.
The lineups were somewhat stacked for this friendly in Singapore. Antonio Conte went with a lineup featuring about half of the likely future starting eleven, sans Eden Hazard, Pedro, and Tiemoué Bakayoko who are all injured. David Luiz was on the bench next to likely future first-choice striker Álvaro Morata who eventually saw his first minutes for the Blues as a second half substitute.
Bayern, coming off a subpar 4-0 defeat by AC Milan, also opted for a strong lineup, though given that it’s Bayern, even the players on the bench were likely to be World cup stars. Ancelotti gave starts to incoming loanee James Rodriguez as well as many other typical Bayern first-teamers in Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, and Mats Hummels.
It didn’t take long for both sides to start pressing offensively. Chelsea were immediately on the front foot testing Bayern down the right-hand side with Moses lurking near the box. Unfortunately, the Chelsea pressure subsided after that brief opening attack and gave place to Bayern dominance for the next 30 minutes.
The first goal of the half came in open play on a Rafinha blast from outside the box. He received the ball near midfield, casually took a few dribbles, and blasted the ball home, nary a Chelsea defender in the vicinity.
While there was a good bit of fortune to the opener, as the game continued apace, with Bayern pressing ever more effectively, Chelsea were looking increasingly unable to cope with their movement, endeavor, and sharpness. It didn’t take long for Bayern to double their lead, carving the Chelsea defense and midfield open for a completely unmarked Müller to pounce and smash his volley home with barely ten minutes on the clock. Tremendous individual work from Ribéry on this goal as well, but Chelsea were scrambling from start to finish, undone by a midfield turnover and massive gaps between the defensive lines.
The game settled into a pattern for the next 10-15 minutes, Bayern dominating possession (62 per cent), creating chances, and keeping Chelsea completely subdued. Even when Chelsea beat the high press and got the ball to Kanté or Fàbregas in midfield, the moves routinely fell apart. Chelsea couldn’t seem to put more than three or four passes together at a time before Bayern pounced on the ball and took over. It was from just a situation that the lead was increased to three.
With the Chelsea midfield off on another planet, both Cahill and Christensen were tracking back so well (and communicating so poorly) that they forgot to step up and stop the ball. Kanté, possibly expecting one of the defenders to in fact step to the ball, was jogging back for the first time in his career, so he got the perfect angle as Müller took aim and curled the ball around Courtois.
Three goals conceded in twenty-six minutes; Chelsea could’ve easily called it quits right then. Instead, Chelsea and Conte got a water break — i.e. a timeout — to regroup.
Chelsea looked better and started improving at both ends of the pitch after the quick break. A Batshuayi chance that put Bayern keeper Starke in a precarious situation was quickly followed by a Willian free kick, albeit only into the wall. In the 41st minute, a nice passing move led to a Marcos Alonso bomb that sailed just over the bar. A minute later, Bats had a shot on goal from just outside the box that forced an excellent save out of Starke, followed up by a succession of three, ever more threatening corners.
Eventually, the Chelsea breakthrough came in the dying embers of first-half stoppage time, a culmination of a good 10-minute period where Chelsea were firmly on the front-foot. Moses, for once not ignored on the wing, cut the ball back towards Batshuayi and while he completely whiffed on his shot, Alonso was there to take his frustrations out on the ball and leather it into the net.
The second-half began with no substitutions for Chelsea. Bayern brought on Kingsley Coman in place of Robert Lewandowski and switched goalkeepers from Tom Starke to Christian Früchtl. Coman was instantly a thorn in the Chelsea side, not so much with his skill on the ball as with his ludicrous speed and intensity on the press.
To their credit, Chelsea were more composed in the second half than in the first. On the defensive end they were able to force Bayern into taking mostly bad shots. Turns out that actually closing down the ball helps! Chelsea were also able to build more efficiently from the back and didn’t look flustered when in possession. However, it looked like both teams were going to have to settle for the 3-1 final scoreline.
The second water break of the game, in the 63rd minute, brought the first two Chelsea substitutions as well. David Luiz replaced Christensen in the center of the three-man defense and Morata made his Chelsea debut coming on for Boga. Their impact was immediate.
With Morata and Batshuayi on the pitch together, Chelsea’s 3-4-3 became lopsided enough to be called a 3-5-2 at times, especially in possession with the ball in the middle with Fabregas or at Alonso’s feet on the left wing. Chelsea started creating chances at a good clip, with the much more pro-active David Luiz creating a couple just by himself (including a shot that clanged off the crossbar), and Willian also firing over after Batshuayi laid off a pass into his path.
Antoher water break brought with it two more subs for Chelsea. Fikayo Tomori came in at right-back, subbing for Alonso and switching sides with Moses. Courtois came off with Eduardo slotting in goal.
Increasingly desperate to collect a bit of reward for all this effort, Chelsea pressed forward in the last 15 minutes, creating several more chances, including a Moses cross that found Tomori’s head at the far post but the youngster somehow managing to not even hit the target. Eventually, Chelsea’s second goal arrived. Morata took a Moses pass and turned it into a corner, which Cesc took as usual. His delivery flicked off Morata at the front post, right to Batshuayi in the center of the six-yard box who slotted home for his team-leading fifth of the pre-season. After the goal Bats and Cesc came off for Lewis Baker and Mario Pasalic as Chelsea reverted to a more classic 3-4-3. Alas, a third goal was not on the cards.
Despite the result and the obvious poor individual and collective performances in the first 30 minutes, there are a few positive takeaways. Chelsea’s improvement and commitment and fight is commendable; it could’ve been all too easy just to play out the final hour of the contest after Müller made it 3-0 before the half-hour mark. There were a couple standout performances, even, especially in the second half, with Gary Cahill making a wonderful block in the box on a James shot and David Luiz showing just why Andreas Christensen has his work cut out for him this season to stake a spot in the starting lineup. Chelsea’s defense and midfield were much better at staying compact, stepping up, and pressuring Bayern’s players and shots. Bayern still created a decent amount of good chances (especially for James to take), but Chelsea looked much more active and much more like Chelsea of last season in the second half.
Just as with the win against Arsenal, it’s easy to get carried away and read too much into a pre-season game. A loss isn’t ideal, nor is Tuesday’s performance overall, but there are things to build on and things to improve. Both are useful learnings for the season ahead.
Next up will be the last pre-season match for Chelsea, against Inter Milan on Saturday.
Chelsea’s overall performance against Bayern Munich?
This poll is closed
It’s only pre-season