First there were 32, now there are four. For the fifth year in a row, Bayern Munich are one of those four, and have an interesting field to deal with. Fortunately for the neutral fan, there are narratives abound with every one of their possible opponents.
The bracket system the Champions League used to employ is firmly out the window, which means it is time for the little balls to once again do their magic. Two of the teams that are ones Bayern have faced several times before, while one is a team Bayern have not played in a very long time. Here is the rest of the Champions League field:
|Team||UEFA Coefficient||Titles||2014/15 Finish|
|Manchester City||97.056||0||Round of 16|
Any one of these draws will be difficult if they are packed with the same tenacity Benfica had. However, one of these draws is bound to be easier than another. Which one is it? The Bavarian Football Writers weighed in on who they want Bayern to see in the Champions League semifinals.
John Bushnell: Manchester City
City may lack the experience of other teams at this stage in the tournament, but they certainly have enough quality to challenge Bayern over two legs. If this scenario plays out, Pep Guardiola’s knowledge of his future club could be the key to victory. Guardiola is a meticulous man and undoubtedly did his homework before signing a contract with the Manchester club, which would likely include a thorough evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the current squad. Besides, would there be any better way for Guardiola to endear himself to the Bayern faithful than eliminating his future team?
Ryan Cowper: Real Madrid
Two years ago, Bayern were embarassed by a huge Real Madrid victory in the Champions League semifinals. It's time to avenge that defeat. This is an opponent still struggling under a mid-season managerial switch, still relying heavily on an aging Cristiano Ronaldo and has shown extensive defensive fragility all season. Those are features Guardiola and Bayern can easily exploit. Plus, imagine the narratives for the Champions League final when the opponent is Manchester City -- with Guardiala joining them next season – or Atlético Madrid – the best defensive team in the world. I would reserve those on the chance that Bayern makes the final.
John Dillon: Manchester City
City seem the most vulnerable among the four semifinalists, and Guardiola has a chance to prove his commitment to Bayern while he’s still in Munich and stick it to City. The Citizens deserve nothing less. If it comes to a confrontation between City and Bayern, the semifinals are probably better than in the final. A Real-Atletico semifinal battle would be exciting (and all-Madrid final would be terribly disappointing). Let the two Madrids batter each other now, and Bayern can take on the victor for the cup.
Valentin King: Manchester City
They just strike me as the weakest opponent left in the competition and Bayern played well against them in the past, not to mention they have played pretty poorly in the Premier League. Both Madrid teams have now beaten Barcelona in recent weeks, so they are riding high. No thank you! Also, the think-pieces about the Guardiola/City connection would be quite comical.
Mike Lynch: Manchester City
The storylines would be too good with Guardiola going up against his future club, the Bundesliga vs the Barclays Premier League, good vs evil. Outside of that, City would give Bayern the best chance to win. Atletico are always a incredibly tough draw and over two legs, the concern is the team's health going into the finals should Bayern win. Real still has Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and that one guy with the abs. With those three, anything can happen, and with Bayern's vulnerabilities on the back line against Benfica, that affair could turn real ugly real quick. City does have Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, but they scare me a whole lot less.
Phillip Quinn: Manchester City
Of the four teams remaining in the competition, City is the weakest, and would prefer to meet one of the two Spanish clubs in the final if it came to it. However, it's the semifinals of the Champions League, and there are no weak teams. Regardless of who Bayern draw, it's going to be a tough battle.
George Rudnik: Manchester City
Of the remaining teams in the CL semifinals, City appear to be the weakest defensively, having given up 33 goals in domestic play and struggling against the top English teams (0 W, 3 D, 6 L against clubs currently in the top-six), while padding their numbers against the minnows. Real Madrid's defense is not much better (29 goals allowed), and they have also shown weakness against the better teams, but they have scored a whopping 93 goals. Atletico? 16 goals allowed, playing a brand of physical, tough (critics say brutal) defense. No thanks! Let the Madrids beat each other up, while Bayern play the weakest remaining club.
Davis VanOpdorp: Atlético Madrid
The narratives that come when Bayern draw either Manchester City or Real Madrid are salivating, but there is more to an opponent than a silly storyline. When it comes to the later stages of the Champions League, the format is important – two legs vs. one, home and away vs. neutral site. Much like Mr. Cowper argued last season for Barcelona, Atletico Madrid is much easier to beat over two legs rather than one. They needed extra time to beat PSV Eindhoven, and incorrect ball placement prevented extra time against Barcelona. Bayern would much rather face such a team over two legs, which makes the semifinals the best case scenario. If the eventual Bundesliga champions get past Atléti, a beatable team is in the final waiting for them.
Luke Zimmermann: Manchester City
Atletico Madrid may be the "least talented" side remaining in the draw, but City represents catharsis on a couple different levels. Guardiola's long, drawn out departure hasn't played out as much of a distraction as it could have, but it certainly's never helped. Getting to beat up, or hell, just beat the team taking one of the most successful managers in Bayern's history has to feel a little nice. Then there's the big, bad Premier League element, and Manchester City are EPL new money, relatively speaking. Letting the record champions get theirs against a team from the most popular league in the world would not only represent great marketing for German football, but give Bayern the chance to really assert themselves and their brand to new developing audiences outside Europe.