While the majority of Great Britain’s media fawn over the idea of Liverpool or Manchester City wrestling the Champions League trophy away from Real Madrid, German giants Bayern Munich have flown under the radar as the tournament’s dark horses.
Real have three-peat, Barcelona have Lionel Messi, and Juventus have Cristiano Ronaldo. Atletico have a dream of winning it all for the first time in their own stadium..Manchester City have Pep Guardiola. Bayern? A quiet, yet assured confidence.
So, why are they overlooked? Could it be the fact that they are a talented side without possessing a superstar? A microcosm of Bavarian culture, the unit comes before any individual.
The saying goes; attack wins you games, but defence wins you championships. With a solidified back line of Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and David Alaba, you’d be hard pressed to find any better in the whole of Europe.
Without being disrespectful to Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, Bayern will yet again win the Bundesliga at a canter. Of all the ‘top five divisions’, Germany is without doubt the easiest to predict. Usually having the league wrapped up by early April, but in the Champions League things have proved more difficult for Bayern.
Recent seasons have come with frustration. The Bayern giants were beaten by eventual winners Real in both of the last two years, in acrimonious fashion. Two years ago Arturo Vidal was the anti-hero, as he missed a penalty in the Allianz Arena, before being sent off in the second leg.
Granted, the sending off was ridiculous, but Munich fought on and made quite the game of it. Taking Real Madrid to extra time, they were seemingly beaten by poor refereeing decisions rather than an incredible Los Blancos side.
The next year, Bayern had nobody to blame but themselves. Dominating for large spells, Die Roten just couldn’t find a way to turn their possession into goals. With the game in the balance, Sven Ulreich’s horrendous mistake gifted Karim Benzema a tap in. In a matter of seconds, Munich’s chance of reaching a Kiev final against Liverpool had all but fizzled out.
Pushed on by their Bernabeu failures, the possibility of redeeming themselves across town in a Wanda Metropolitano final certainly fuels the storyline this time round.
The question may well be, who are their challengers? Manchester City looked lost against Lyon, PSG were woeful at Anfield, and Barcelona’s defensive frailties are likely to bite them later down the road once again. If the Germans can stroll through their opening stage without any injuries and then get drawn against a weaker last 16 opponent, you’d be rash to bet against them.
Paired with AEK Athens, Ajax and Benfica, it’s very possible that Munich make it through the group without dropping a point. Bayern, in fact, could go relatively unnoticed by many until the quarter final
It’s doubtful Bayern will care though as with focus elsewhere, Die Roten can continue along their path without any pressure.