The semi finals of the Champions League are here again, and once again Germany’s Bayern Munich have made it through to the last four, where they will come face to face with Lionel Messi and Barcelona. Win that and they’ll be through to their second consecutive final, where they would face either Barca’s fiercest rivals, José Mourinho’s Real Madrid, or their own, Borussia Dortmund.
What I want to know is, do Bayern have what it takes to be crowned kings of Europe this time around?
Every football fan knows what happened in last year’s final, with Bayern losing to Chelsea on penalties in their own back garden. Now that must’ve hurt. Being a Spurs fan, it certainly hurt me, but I think the pain felt by the Bavarians that night was a little greater, what with Arjen Robben missing a penalty in extra time & the ever reliable Bastian Schweinsteiger missing in the shootout.
Over the summer Bayern certainly set about going one better than last year, acquiring the striking talents of Mario Mandžukić from Wolfsburg, the exciting young Xherdan Shaqiri from FC Basel, and shoring up the defence with Dante from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach. These signings certainly helped in the Bundesliga, where alongside their new superstar colleagues, Neuer, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Ribery and Robben, to name a few, they wrapped up the title in a record 28 games, conceding only thirteen goals.
Bayern have been just as mean in the Champions League, where aside from what some may consider a shock defeat away to BATE Borisov of Belarus, they cruised through Group F, scoring fifteen goals in the process. In the first leg of their last 16 tie against Arsenal, they blew the Gunners to pieces at the Emirates, with the hosts fortunate to only lose 3-1. At times during the first leg, Bayern were passing the ball around like it was a training session, followed by a game of attack versus defence.
Even though Lukas Podolski scored a consolation for Arsenal that night, few thought that the goal would pose any real threat to Bayern’s progression to the quarter finals. Bayern however, simply didn’t turn up for the 2nd leg. An incredibly lacklustre performance from the hosts saw Arsenal claim a 2-0 victory, which meant Bayern crept through on the away goals rule. In truth it was only when Laurent Koscielny scored the visitors second, with four minutes remaining, that the game actually became interesting. Still, it sent out a reminder to Bayern, much like in last year’s final, that if you think the game is already won, and you play as such; you can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Bayern seemed to heed the warning given to them by Arsenal, as they made light work of dispatching Italian Champions Juventus in the quarter finals, winning by an impressive margin of four goals to nil on aggregate. Granted there was a bit of fortune in David Alaba’s first leg opening goal, but that slice of luck aside, nobody could argue that Bayern were worthy winners. Bayern made it look as though the Juventus that’s been taking Serie A to pieces this season, simply didn’t exist.
So on to the last four, and the dates with Messi and Co. Can Pep Guardiola’s new boys come the summer defeat the team he made the worlds best? If they take both legs of the tie seriously, which I believe they will – they must; they’ll be coming to London in May, with their supporters consuming a fair amount of our beer in the process. Bayern have arguably the worlds best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer, Europe’s meanest defence, protected by record signing Javi Martínez, and a forward line that must be the envy of many of the worlds best. Barca’s defence also hasn’t been the best this season, conceding more regularly than in recent years, which must give Jupp Heynckes hope in an attacking sense. If Bayern win the first leg and keep a clean sheet, with the defence they have at their disposal they’ll have done enough to reach the final.
If they reach the final, Bayern will be up against one of the two best counter attacking teams in the competition. Having finally put the run of consecutive defeats to Dortmund behind them, courtesy of a victory in the German cup quarter finals, they’ll be confident of emerging victorious against their domestic rivals – if they are indeed paired off against them in the Wembley showpiece. If Bayern meet Madrid at Wembley they’ll be buoyed by the memories of last years semi final penalty shootout victory against the reigning Spanish champions.
Can Bayern do it? I guess we’ll find out on May 25th, if not before.