FC Viktoria Plzeň are Czech champions, but Champions League minnows — and Bayern Munich know it. That kind of knowledge, however, is dangerous, especially with a crucial run of the season up ahead. And that can require some extra motivation.
“With twelve points, we would be well-placed to reach the knock out phase,” Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann said ahead of today's group stage contest between the teams (via @iMiaSanMia). “That would give us some peace of mind, especially ahead of Sunday. This is a very important game. It’s up to us to remain relaxed as we have done in the Champions League thus far.”
Boilerplate comments, maybe, but necessary ones. Bayern are down to the bare bones, with senior team players Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry, Alphonso Davies, and Matthijs de Ligt all not making the trip — and youth players Johannes Schenk and Paul Wanner earning the call-ups. It’s tempting to see this as a signal opportunity for youngsters like Wanner and Mathys Tel, perhaps even in the same XI.
But it’s not entirely a day just to relax and chill.
Thanks to FC Barcelona’s shock loss to Inter Milan last week, twelve points would just about do it for qualification. If Inter and Barça draw this time around, Bayern would qualify and sit five points clear of second with a win (12pts - 7pts - 4pts). If Barça win, it’d be a six-point advantage (12 - 6 - 6), arguably better but potentially enabling a wild finish. If Barça lose, Bayern qualify and the group stage finale vs Inter at the Allianz would decide first place.
But that’s all assuming Bayern win. Any dropped points, and Bayern find themselves facing a two-game gauntlet — beginning with a trip to Camp Nou next week — all while running on fumes, and still straggling in the Bundesliga, a situation raising increasing concerns and gathering storm clouds to Säbener Straße.
So Nagelsmann is right: a thoroughly professional job will be required. Fortunately, Bayern have more than a few of those characters in the squad.