Bayern Munich cruised to an 11th Champions League quarter-final in 13 years on Wednesday with a 2-1 win over Lazio in their round-of-16 second leg sealing a 6-2 aggregate victory.
The reigning German, European and world champions were massive favourites for this tie even discounting their 4-1 lead from the first leg, but after a minor blip following their Club World Cup campaign, Bayern have once again hit a machine-like stride in their relentless quest for victories and silverware. Indeed, that was the story of Wednesday’s match, with a Robert Lewandowski penalty in the first half teeing up Eric Choupo-Moting to finish the job in the second.
In reality, Bayern barely had to break a sweat, controlling 58.7% of possession and conceding just two shots on target — Marco Parolo’s goal in the 82nd minute was nothing but mere consolation. But it was no coincidence that Lazio only managed to break down Bayern after the best player of the night had left the pitch: Joshua Kimmich.
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No longer the right-back prospect that many remember him to be, Kimmich is arguably the world’s best deep-lying midfielder right now, exuding grace on the ball, tenacity without it and using his incredible engine to cover a huge amount of ground in front of the Bayern defence.
Kimmich’s brilliance was on full display on both sides of the ball on Wednesday. The 26-year-old only stayed on the pitch for 77 minutes before being given a well-earned rest, but during that time, he completed 89% of his 64 attempted passes, with 35 of those completed coming in the Lazio half. Kimmich created a match-high four chances on the night, while it was his superb line-breaking pass that set David Alaba away en route to setting up Choupo-Moting’s goal in the second half.
Those four chances created take Kimmich’s total to a quite ridiculous 42 in this competition since the start of last season, drawing him ahead of Lionel Messi (40) and level with compatriot Toni Kroos (42) as the Champions League’s most prolific playmaker during that time.
Despite being stuck in their own half for large stretches, Lazio weren’t without their moments, but Kimmich set about stopping the Italians like a fireman putting out a blaze, gaining possession 10 times for Bayern, more than any other player in Hansi Flick’s squad. Once the ball was recovered, Kimmich acted as a pressure relief valve, playing the right pass to get Bayern into space, completing all six (6/6!) of his attempted dribbles to evade pressure and get into the open field, or drawing a foul which killed Lazio’s momentum dead. It was Kimmich’s replacement, Javi Martinez, who switched off at the back post to allow Parolo to head home Lazio’s consolation.
The obvious caveat to this performance was just how dominant Bayern were, especially with Lazio facing an improbable task at the Allianz Arena. However, anyone who has watched Kimmich play this season will know this is par for the course. Indeed, the Germany international is fourth in the Bundesliga for chances created per 90 (2.99) among players with 500 or more minutes under their belts, while he’s third for final third passes completed (22.48) and fourth for long passes completed (7.98). Whether it’s threading it through the eye of a needle or firing the ball back into enemy territory like some sort of siege weapon, Kimmich can do it all and the only reason his defensive numbers don’t stack up is that Bayern are so ridiculously dominant domestically.
Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, PSG et al. Some seriously tough potential opponents await Bayern in the next round. But they’re the ones with six trophies already in the cabinet, that winning feeling provides the Bavarians with a real edge, as does Kimmich’s ability to force the opposition into submission with his playmaking panache and defensive dominance.