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FC Bayern's 2013 || Part II: Continuing Success

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Heynckes left massive shoes to fill, but Bayern and Guardiola have been up to the task through the first half of this season and the last half of 2013.

Lennart Preiss

Effective July 1, Pep Guardiola assumed the position of manager from Jupp Heynckes.

Tymoshchuk, Gomez, Gustavo left while Götze, Thiago and Kirchhoff entered the team. Robert Lewandowski tried his best to join, but Bayern decided to get him for no transfer money in the summer of 2014.

Several important pre-season tournaments (LIGA total! Cup, Audi Cup, Uli Hoeneß Cup and the all-important Paulaner Cup des Südens) were won and an absolutely meaningless DFB Super Cup loss later (only matters if you win), Bayern were ready to begin the new Bundesliga campaign against those who had ended the last one: Gladbach.

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Guardiola's team started out looking very much like the one that had beaten Dortmund and Stuttgart to end the last season, but that was soon to change.

As opposed to the double-pivoted 4-2-3-1 from last season, Pep selected a formation that put more attacking midfielders on the pitch, a 4-1-4-1.

As anyone who has watched most matches this season could tell you, the formation isn't very meaningful aside from the single-pivot as opposed to the double. That is to say everything else is very fluid, sometimes using only three defenders, sometimes dropping midfielders back.

The injury bug struck early and often but luckily Bayern had acquired enough players to weather through a trying Hinründe. At the onset, the biggest question on everyone's mind was how, exactly, Guardiola would fit all of the players, and their egos, on the field.

Injuries made those decisions easy.

Name a player on Bayern this season, and chances are he's been hurt. Even Philipp Lahm, who has played every match for the team it seems since returning from Stuttgart on loan had to miss a few matches.

Thiago, Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Götze, Shaqiri, Ribery, Pizarro and Robben (and I'm probably missing a few have all missed chunks of the season, and Holger Badstuber is still out from an injury that occurred last season.

Still, somehow, the team only lost once. And like last season, the loss itself was meaningless, although one more goal conceded in either would have had major consequences.

Before the Bundesliga could get underway, Bayern more or less had a preseason extension in the first round of the DFB-Pokal away to Schwarz-Weiß Rehden. Bayern won 5-0.

The league opener against Mönchengladbach wasn't as wild as the one that ended last season, but instead saw Bayern firing on all cylinders for portions of the match. One similarity was Dante being confused as to who signs his paycheck; he scored an own-goal against Bayern. Robben, Mandzukic and an Alaba penalty put the Reds on track to another fast start.

A less comfortable win away to Eintracht Frankfurt followed, the only goal coming from Mandzukic inside 15 minutes. After that, Bayern easily beat rivals 1. FC Nürnberg at home 2-0.

Because of the UEFA Super Cup, Bayern's match with Freiburg was pushed up to a Tuesday evening. Also because of the looming match against Chelsea, Guardiola fielded a B-rate team.

Bayern played extremely complacently after gaining a 1-0 advantage through Shaqiri on 33 minutes, and allowed SCF to gain chance after chance. In an outcome that you could almost feel while watching the match, Freiburg drew level four minutes from time through Nicolas Höfler.

That out of the way, the pressure was on to beat Chelsea since it was apparent that now, Bayern had traded 2 points in the league for the privilege.

The match didn't start promisingly, Fernando Torres put CFC on top after only 8 minutes.

Bayern pressed on and scored on an incredibly hard-struck shot from Ribery in the 47th minute that beat Cech to his right.

The match progressed uneventfully until when five minutes from time, Ramires of Chelsea went studs-up on Mario Götze. The action was met with a sending off via a red card, and Bayern would have a man advantage heading into 30 minutes of extra time.

All looked to be going the Bavarians' way, that is until Eden Hazard scored against the run of play just three minute into added time.

From now on, though, it was all Bayern.

It was almost as if the travelling support from the Südkurve were willing the team to an equalizer, but it looked like it would never come.

Chance after chance after chance resulted in only near misses for Bayern. Cech denied Shaqiri and Mandzukic on what looked like certain goals.

Now deep into extra time, José Mourinho desperately urged the Chelsea "support" to get off their hands and say something, after 120 minutes of only being able to hear German coming from the stands.

With the last attack of the match, Bayern won a corner. It was cleared numerous times as Bayern continued to pepper the area with crosses.

Probably after the whistle should have sounded, Jerome Boateng lofted in one final cross.

Dante had a havy touch on it, but that touch went straight to an unbelievably unmarked Javi Martinez, who nailed in the tying goal past Cech to the near post. The Bayern end, where the goal was scored, erupted in a way you don't usually get to see. However in this case, all celebrating players ran directly to them, letting them know this time it would be different.

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And now it was a familiar sight; Bayern and Chelsea in penalties.

However, Bayern didn't miss from the spot this time.

Romelu Lukaku (subsequently loaned out to Everton) sent a weak effort towards Neuer who easily saved, and Bayern had won the Super Cup.

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After a 2-0 home win against Hannover 96, it was now time for Bayern to begin their defense of their European crown.

The Reds' first group stage match was at home against CSKA Moskow, which they won with ease, 3-0.

Next was a trip to Gelsenkirchen and hated rivals Schalke 04. By this point in the season, it was apparent that Schalke had seen better days, and FCB disposed of them by a fitting 4-0, through Schweinsteiger, Mandzukic, Ribery and Pizarro.

The second round of the DFB-Pokal was played in Munich against recent opponents Hannover. This victory was even more comfortable, the Munich side winning 4-1.

Bayern then narrowly beat Wolfsburg on the weekend 1-0, the only goal coming from Müller in the 63rd minute. Bayern struggled, as they had several times to that point, to get much going in the first half of the match. The one goal was enough, though, for Bayern to enjoy their trip to Oktoberfest, or Wiesn, that night.

Desperately in need of an effort that resembled something like a dominating performance, Bayern would get their chance in Manchester against 2011 group mates City.

From the onset, Bayern passed around and through City and got an early goal from Franck Ribery on a peculiar bit of goalkeeping by Joe Hart.

Goals by Müller and Robben just before the hour mark set Bayern on course for a rout of what was thought to be even competition. But this Bayern, unlike Jupp's former team, had the ability to strangle its opposition.

At one point after leading 3-0, Bayern strung together something like 100 passes in a row.

A consolation goal from Negredo and a semi-competent final 10 minutes was all City could hang their hats on from the match. Bayern had 66% of the ball.

In their fifth match in two weeks, a tired and depleted Bayern forced a draw with rivals on the table Bayer Leverkusen. Kroos scored on half an hour but Leverkusen scored from the ensuing kickoff, and there were no more goals.

Die Roten beat Mainz 4-1 after a slow start and demolished Viktoria Plzen in Europe before a wild match at the Allianz against upstart Hertha Berlin.

In that match, three goals were scored in seven minutes, with FCB getting two of them. The 3-2 final score was only so after a Hertha barrage that nearly got them the equalizer.

Bayern fell behind again in Sinsheim in their next match, but got the next two goals, including Thomas Müller in the 75th minute to return to the top of the table.

This match has been Thomas Müller in a nutshell this season; many poor performances (that may be due to playing out of position sometimes), but yet still finding a way to score and usually doing so late in the match.

In the Czech Republic, substitute Mario Mandzukic scored the match's only goal in the 65th, something that the apparently out-of-favor Croatian did many times in the Hinründe.

A stunning Jerome Boateng goal was enough to beat Augsburg at home, though the Reds would get two more from Ribery and Müller. This match tied HSV's record of 37 matches unbeaten in the league.

This led up to the fixture of the season thus far away to Champions League Final opponents Dortmund.

If there were a time or a week where Mario Götze truly arrived as a Bayern player, it would either have to be this one.

Bayern stunned the Westfalenstadion with three unanswered goals, beginning with Götze in the 66th minute.

Götze received a grounded ball from Müller on the right wing, and side-footed it in for the go-ahead goal.

Dortmund threatened several more times, but Bayern and Arjen Robben got a second on the counterattack when the Dutchman carefully and perfectly chipped Weidenfeller from the left side of the goalkeeper.

Lahm and Müller combined for a carbon copy of the Götze goal for a third, and Bayern were walking away with their first win in Dortmund since Louis van Gaal's successful, double-winning 2009-2010.

This gave Bayern a 4-point lead atop the Bundesliga table, and the moments leading up to the match may prove to have been BVB's high-water mark in the league, as they have paid the price for having only eleven or twelve starting-caliber players before injuries.

The Götze train rolled on to Moscow in a 3-1 win highlighted by possibly the best individual moment of brilliance yet seen, as the young German put his team up 2-0 by weaving through the CSKA defense and beating Akinfeev just before the hour mark.

The score could have been farther apart if a handball in the area had been called on CSKA at the end of the first half, but snowy Moscow would only see four goals on the night.

This was Bayern's 10th Champions League win in a row, beating Barcelona's mark from 2002.

Eintracht Braunschweig (2-0), Augsburg in the Pokal (0-2), and Werder Bremen (0-7) gave Bayern no real trouble domestically and Bayern found out they had drawn HSV in the next day after the Bremen match.

Augsburg's goalkeeper Hitz slashed Arjen Robben's leg open on a challenge, but avoided a red card. Robben would miss the rest of 2013.

The second loss of the entire year came next, at the hands of the recipients of Bayern's best performance of the Guardiola era: Manchester City.

The match didn't start out looking like it was going to be a loss, with Müller and Götze scoring within 15 minutes. But the dreaded complacency virus, a.k.a. Bayern kryptonite, struck again as it had against Arsenal.

City fought back for three goals and a tie for the lead in the group, but needed one more to get the necessary goal differential to be in Pot A in the Round of 16 draw.

Very, very fortunately for Bayern, Manuel Pellegrini didn't know or didn't remember the requisite conditions for City winning the group, and didn't bring on Agüero because he didn't know that one more goal gave them the group.

Just like the Arsenal loss, it was a poor performance but comforting in two ways: First, that Bayern had beaten themselves both times, which is to say they took their foot off the gas so-to-speak. Secondly, both had no consequence because of one goal-related tiebreaker or another used in European play.

Bavaria's best finished their Hinründe a week early (the Stuttgart match was moved to avoid a Club World Cup conflict) by winning 3-1 at home to HSV, a match highlighted by the post-game laser display.

On another day, Bayern would have drawn the match but Pierre-Michel Lasogga only had one shooting boot on and as a result, missed two clear chances before scoring one. Bayern got a third goal as HSV were pressing forward and with that, were Herbstmeister with a game in hand.

Now it was off to Morocco, for Pep's team to have another chance at a trophy in a small-ish stadium.

Guanzhou Evergrande weren't the best forever, or even for a few minutes, and Bayern won the semifinal comfortably with goals from Ribery, Mandzukic and Götze.

Now it was on to the final against the surprise finalists and home team Raja Casablanca.

FCB made easy work of the Moroccan side early on, Dante scoring on a botched offside trap. Thiago scored fifteen minutes later and it looked like the Reds weren't done by a long shot.

And they shouldn't have been.

Everyone on the red team hit the crossbar or the post seventeen times each, and Raja played like they were coached by Ottmar Hitzfeld but with FV Illertissen players at every position.

Bayern then had no problems winning the Club World Cup, adding world domination to their list of 2013 accomplishments.

That Was Nice

What a year it was huh? Bayern won every match they tried to win, and thereby won every competition there was to win.

It's not likely we'll see Bayern have another year like it, but it kind of feels like we will, very soon, doesn't it? The team seems to get better and better players every transfer window, and even with all the injuries it doesn't seem like there were notable weak points in the lineup.

The existing players by the names of Kroos, Martinez, Mandzukic, Lahm, Neuer, Boateng and Götze seem to get better every week and the existing veterans still have a good three years left at this level.

Bayern had a great manager, and they certainly have a great manager. Certainly if this team goes all the way again it will be in a different way, but I've not yet seen larger trophies handed out for margin of victory.

What's most odd and impressive about this crop of players is that Bayern were a win away from the Triple in 2010, but if they had won it, it wouldn't have felt like they were really a great team. Last season's were the better team in every single match they played.

2013 belonged to Jupp Heynckes, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben above all others, all now already legends.

2014 could very well belong to another team, but if one thing's clear as of December 31, 2013, it won't be because they were man-for-man a better side.