It's unusual for a manager to spring a tactical surprise by sticking to the formation he's used all season, but there was so much pre-match speculation that Antonio Conte would beef up his midfield with the introduction of former Manchester United youngster Paul Pogba, that the usual 3-5-2 system was rather unexpected.
Clearly, it was a gamble to deploy two central strikers away at Bayern, a side that dominates possession routinely, but part of the attraction of Conte's 3-5-2 is the very concept of an old-fashioned, proper strike partnership.
Whereas in a 4-4-2, one striker is forced to drop into midfield to provide a third player in that zone, the 3-5-2 already features three central midfielders, and allows the two forwards to combine by exploiting each other's runs. So often, Juventus tear apart opponents with simple movement – one striker drags a centre-back up the pitch, the other charges into the space behind him. Their equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge earlier this season was a fine example.
However, it wasn't merely the decision to play two strikers that was surprising – it was the identity of the players themselves. Throughout this season, Conte has rotated four forwards – Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic. His most favoured duo, by a distance, is Vucinic and Giovinco – they've started 14 times together, have struck up a good partnership, and boast clever movement and pace. The partnership Conte has used least frequently this season is Quagliarella and Matri, who had started together only twice all season. Surprisingly, they started last night.
On their two previous appearances as a strike duo (in the 2-0 win over Celtic, and the 2-1 weekend win over Inter) – both had scored. That indicated promise, but both were hugely underwhelming as Bayern's centre-back duo of Daniel van Buyten and Dante dominated the battle. Matri ambled around upfront, unable to collect long balls or bring his partner into play, while Quagliarella dropped deep to little effect.
They could legitimately complain about their lack of service – Bayern's pressing was superb, and playmaker Andrea Pirlo finished with his lowest pass completion in a Juve shirt. "Bayern kept the tempo very high and we struggled to emerge with the ball, admitted Giorgio Chiellini," But Conte's entire game plan was about accepting Bayern pressure, then breaking quickly with Quagliarella and Matri high up against two centre-backs.
The only question was which would be substituted first. In the end, it was a dead heat – they were removed together, after 65 minutes – it was highly surprising that Conte waited until Juve had conceded a second goal to make changes – with Giovinco and Vucinic introduced. Immediately, Juve looked more dangerous. Giovinco drifted around and offered more depth to attacks, and there was simply more of a relationship between the front two.
It's difficult to understand why Conte selected his strike duo in the first place. Granted, Vucinic was unwell at the weekend and probably not fit to start in Munich – but Giovinco would have been a more natural partner for either Matri or Quagliarella.
Their struggles were exaggerated by Mario Mandzukic's superb display at the other end. Playing as Bayern's lone striker, Mandzukic didn't score but was arguably his side's most important player – he battled bravely against three Juve centre-backs, with Chiellini his most frequent opponent. His hold-up play was vital, his energy led the relentless pressing that caused the Italian champions so much difficulty, and he worked hard to track back and keep Bayern compact, helping to pressure Pirlo.
Mandzukic has been the revelation of the European season, and last night he contributed significantly more than Juventus' two forwards combined.