In Part 1, we took a look at the best possible draws for Bayern Munich. Now, it is time to look at which teams could potentially hand Bayern their first defeat in the UEFA Champions League since early 2019. Without further ado, these are the three teams I think will cause Bayern the most headaches, from hardest to easiest.
City, to an extent, is overhyped in the English-speaking press. The general conversation seems to be centered on whether Bayern or City is the favorite. City, nonetheless, is an excellent side. A true reflection of their excellence has been in the Premier League rather than in the Champions League, simply because they happened to meet a Borussia Mönchengladbach side sliding down the table after the announcement of the departure of Marco Rose to Borussia Dortmund. In the group stages, they had a relatively easy group with Porto being their main challenger.
City has surprised me with their excellence in defense; Ruben Dias has proved to be an excellent acquisition from Benfica. Everybody knows about the excellence of Kevin de Bruyne in midfield; however, Ilkay Gündogan has stepped up as well this season and has scored multiple goals. If City has one weakness, I would say they need a better striker than Gabriel Jesus. Sergio Aguero is great, but has had an injury-ridden season.
City is the only remaining side to not have have contested a Champions League final in their history and one of two teams remaining in the competition to have never won it. They tend to struggle in the latter stages of the Champions League having reached the last four only once, under Manuel Pellegrini. They were knocked out by Lyon last season, 3-1, in Portugal.
City tends to play through opponents; they also press from time to time. However, like Bayern, they can be susceptible on the break. Manchester United also showed that perhaps, City does not quite have the strength to come back from a two-goal deficit to turn matches around like Bayern can.
Bayern is more dynamic than City in attack. If the two draw each other, Bayern’s best chance will be sticking to their guns and trying to outscore the opponent; considering Bayern’s defensive woes this season, a clean sheet against a team like City is as good as out of the question.
All that being said, while City is extremely strong, Bayern is still the titleholder. I am well aware that the last time the Bavarians were holders, Real Madrid dispatched them easily in the semifinals. However, this time, the manager has not changed, the playing style has not changed and the team has not changed much either.
Bayern should indeed be wary of City; however, City will not be the happiest to draw Bayern either; enough time has passed since Pep Guardiola has joined City for Bayern to completely change the way they play compared to Pep’s Bayern. In addition, if Bayern needs to draw on Champions League experience and their never-say-die attitude, this tie could be the time to do so.
Chelsea might seem like a surprise inclusion here; however, Chelsea’s defensive record is what has led them to this list. Chelsea has kept multiple clean sheets since Thomas Tuchel took over and is yet to lose a game under his management. They made relatively light work of a toothless Atletico side although Atletico probably should have had a penalty with the game poised at 1-0 from the first leg in the second leg.
Bayern has played two defensively strong outfits in Atletico Madrid and Lazio; they won three out of four of those games comfortably. The additional piece of the puzzle here is that Chelsea does have speedy attackers who can hurt Bayern — Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic are all players who can trouble the backline.
In last year’s Round of 16 tie, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi caused Bayern a problem or two. This season, with a more potent attack, if the attack gels, they could hurt Bayern.
Again, over two legs, I think Bayern can beat Chelsea. That being said, there are no easy games in this competition and this Chelsea side is evolving under Tuchel. Chelsea could be a harder draw than most think.
Real Madrid, regardless of current form, is still Real Madrid. They waited till the final day to qualify from their group in the Champions League, after having lost twice to Shakhtar Donetsk. They beat Gladbach convincingly in the last game of the group stages. In the Round of 16, they were fortunate to be a man up for the majority of the first leg against Atalanta. They labored to a 0-1 victory in that game. In the second leg, they beat the Italians easily, 3-1.
The point is, when it matters, Real Madrid finds a way. They are more often than not, handed favorable decisions by the officials despite the presence of VAR. Bayern is no stranger to that, having been at the wrong end of sometimes, highly questionable, and sometimes, plain wrong, decisions against the Spaniards.
Real Madrid is quietly solid; they still have Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in midfield; Sergio Ramos in defense; Karim Benzema up front. They have the know-how and experience required to progress in this competition. Of the remaining teams left, in the last decade or so nobody has quite as much Champions League experience as Bayern and Real, even considering that some teams left are relatively recent winners such as Chelsea and Liverpool.
Real will not go down without a fight. I, for one, would prefer that that fight is against a side not called Bayern.
As an aside, if Bayern draws an English side, the Bavarians will most likely not be able to play in the Allianz Arena. I do see that as a slight disadvantage. I think not being able to play at home affected RB Leipzig to an extent in their first leg against Liverpool, considering that they had beaten both Manchester United and PSG in Germany in the group stages.
And now, I must add a disclaimer. Despite how much of a challenge these teams pose, I do not think Bayern is any way inferior to them. That being said, Bayern must be at their best to beat any side remaining in the competition, whether it be Manchester City or FC Porto.
Which team do you think is the hardest draw on the list?
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