Second place. Bayern Munich finished in second place.
As weird as that is to say, their runner-up position is not such a bad one to be in. Since the change in the Champions League format from two years ago, finishing second allows for Bayern to face some of the easier group winners that normally would have been stomped out in the group stage.
Carlo Ancelotti admitted on Monday that Bayern Munich did not accomplish what they needed to in the group stage. But he also said that the knockout stage is basically where the season really begins. Here is the current Champions League landscape, as well as all of the draw scenarios Bayern have come Monday’s draw.
|D||Atlético Madrid||Bayern Munich|
|E||AS Monaco||Bayer Leverkusen|
|F||Borussia Dortmund||Real Madrid|
|G||Leicester City||FC Porto|
NOTE: Bayern cannot play other group runners-up, teams from their federation (aka Bundesliga clubs) or teams from their group. That leaves six possible opponents Bayern could face in the Last 16.
The Best Draw: Leicester City
They were the cinderella champions everyone was rooting for, but they have turned back into a pumpkin this season. They are in the knockout stages courtesy of an abnormally easy group, and their Premier League form is a better indicator of how their season has gone. Make no mistake: Having to contain Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez is not a challenge Bayern should take lightly, but this draw would be retribution for a very tough group stage for Bayern.
The Worst Draw: Barcelona
This draw is definitely up there among the worst possible draws for Bayern considering Bayern’s last trip to Catalonia. This one would be disappointing to see considering how often both of these teams have been in the semifinals, but Atletico Madrid did hand Barcelona an early exit in the quarterfinals last season. Barcelona don’t look like the worst opponent if one just looks at their defense, but they still arguably have the best collection of attacking talent in the world. No team wants to defend against that for 180 minutes.
The Familiar Draw: Arsenal
The newly formed rivalry is well known; Bayern and Arsenal have played each other in three of the last four Champions Leagues before this season, and Bavarians have gotten the better of the Gunners on many occasions. The tables may be somewhat turned if this match-up were to come about for Bayern would have to play the home leg first. Add the fact that Arsenal seem to be putting things together – they are second in the English Premier League and have lost just twice this season in all competition – while Bayern look more vulnerable than they have in recent years.
The Rematch Draw: Juventus
The tables would be turned in this draw as well should it come about, though home field advantage did not seem to matter in this wild 6-4 tie last season. Like Bayern, Juventus have taken a small step back this season, but unlike Bayern, they still sit atop their domestic league. Juventus had it a little easier in the group stage than Bayern did, but that should not take away from how good their team is.
The Newbie Draw: Napoli
Well, they aren’t complete newbies, this is just the second time Napoli have ever reached the last 16 of the Champions League. As group winners, their knockout stage experience hopefully won’t be as turbulent as it was in 2012 when Chelsea came back to knock them out of the competition. A date with Bayern though will be just that, though, and with Gonzalo Higuain playing in black and white this season and Arkadiusz Milik out with injury, they may have a hard time besting the German champions.
The Darkhorse Draw: AS Monaco
People who just follow one of the top four European leagues have probably missed the fact that Monaco is the most prolific scoring team in Europe at the moment. They have scored a whopping 49 goals in 16 Ligue 1 games this season – although just 9 goals in their six group stage games – and it is not just because Radamel Falcao has rediscovered his scoring touch. Two seasons ago they made it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and even though they do not have the same rock-solid defense they did then, they are bound to pester whoever draws them.