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Pep’s formula for defence

11 defenders + possession + Neuer = fortress FCB

How many goals have the best defensive teams around Europe conceded this season? England? 13 (Chelsea, Southampton). Spain? Seven (Barcelona). Italy? Six (Juventus). Germany? Three, and only three. FC Bayern have the best defence in the top four European leagues at the moment. Tuesday night’s 2-0 win against Freiburg saw the Reds break the Bundesliga record set by VfB Stuttgart in 2003/04 with four goals conceded in 16 games. FCB have only let in three to date.

“Fantastic,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in describing the defensive performance in the current campaign after FCB set another league record against Freiburg on Tuesday night with a thirteenth clean sheet in 16 games. Manuel Neuer did not have a single shot to save. “That’s down to the whole team including the player furthest up the park,” said central defender Jérôme Boateng, “the whole team works going forwards and in defence.”

Pep Guardiola quotes the team’s united approach as the main reason for the Bayern fortress. “All eleven players run back,” said the FCB head coach, “Even if we have five strikers on the pitch we still have eleven defenders.” Manuel Neuer quipped: “The attackers help out with defending - and we’ve got a back four if it gets serious.”

'In an emergency there’s Neuer'

Guardiola has also identified another important reason for the defensive strength: “Because we have more possession than the opposition.” Or as Neuer puts it: “If we’ve got the ball then it’s difficult for the opposition to score.” FCB had 82 percent possession against Freiburg, leaving just 18 percent for their opponents.

And even if the opposition does get through they face an insurmountable hurdle: “In an emergency there’s always Manuel Neuer,” said Rafinha referring to the top keeper in the world who has saved 91.2 percent of shots on his goal, by far the best return in the Bundesliga.

“We’ve only conceded three goals, but we could have let in more. Manuel Neuer kept a few out,” declared Guardiola, praising his number one who often breaks up attacks far outside his penalty area. “He’s probably as good a sweeper as Franz Beckenbauer was in his prime,” said Rummenigge.

Neuer and the FCB defence are back in action at Mainz on Friday in the last match before Christmas. Neuer has identified a clear target: “Of course we want to win and try to keep another clean sheet.”