Uefa Champions League semi-finals: Why Bayern Munich will go on to win the title
Bayern Munich seemed to have escaped attention somewhat this season. Perhaps their ever-presence in the latter stages of the Uefa Champions League is taken for granted. After all, including this season, Bayern have reached the semi-finals or better in six of the past seven editions.
Maybe it’s down to the lack of drama they’ve been responsible for. While Real Madrid and Roma were dragged into the trenches in the quarter-finals, Bayern provided a tutorial in two-legged knockout football against Sevilla – nothing too flashy; efficient, disciplined, clinical. Decidedly German football.
That’s not to suggest this Bayern side are incapable of fireworks. Far from it. An 8-1 aggregate victory over group-topping Besiktas in the last 16 was as ominous a warning as they come. The Bavarians also dismantled Paris Saint-Germain in the group stages, the 3-1 victory almost atoning for their 3-0 defeat in France but not quite enough to top the pool.
Indeed, the only mark on Bayern’s Champions League record this season proved the final game of Carlo Ancelotti’s season-and-a-bit spell – a reign that by the end had clearly run its course.
The return to the dugout of Jupp Heynckes, the man who guided Bayern to the 2013 treble before retiring, has triggered a remarkable set of results. The 72-year-old German has won 30 of his 35 games in charge, losing just two. But it's his Champions League record that should terrify the clubs remaining in this season’s competition. Until the goalless draw against Sevilla at the Allianz Arena, Heynckes claimed a record 12 consecutive wins in the tournament, stretching back to the title-winning campaign five years ago.
Bayern’s Champions League pedigree, and that of their manager, speaks for itself and we haven’t even mentioned the playing personnel yet.
In Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, Bayern possess a centre-back pairing to rival any in world football – a blend of solidity, athleticism and ease on the ball. At full-back, David Alaba is a top-bracket left-back, while on the right, Joshua Kimmich has not only established himself as Bayern’s first-choice but Germany’s too. They are not lacking for cover, either, with the likes of Juan Bernat, Rafinha, and Niklas Sule more than capable deputies.
The midfield is even more impressive. Javi Martinez has been moved up from centre-back to the holding role and occupies the middle of the park alongside the supremely gifted Thiago Alcantara and the indestructible Arturo Vidal. Again, cover is no issue. James Rodriguez, on loan from Real Madrid, Sebastian Rudy and Corentin Tolisso are players who would walk into almost any other team.
Then there’s the forward line, led by one of the most prolific strikers in the world. Robert Lewandowski is then flanked by any combination of Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Kingsley Coman. Frightening.
Oh, and it looks like Bayern could welcome back their No 1 soon enough after Manuel Neuer missed most of the season with a foot injury.
Bayern boast the most complete, well-balanced squad left in the Champions League. There are goals throughout the team, they combine steel and style, and they possess the know-how.
Another major factor that could swing in their favour is the lack of distractions. Having wrapped up a sixth successive Bundesliga title, Bayern are left to focus on their Champions League commitments.
Compare that to Real Madrid, Roma and Liverpool, all of whom have unfinished business in their respective domestic leagues.
With Bayern through to face Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Cup final, everything looks set up for Heynckes to stride off into the sunset with another treble. Again.