It’s been over seven months since Bayern Munich lost. Of course, that record was somewhat inflated by the two-month hiatus taken in Germany for the coronavirus pandemic, but nonetheless, it’s been 26 matches since the Bavarians last tasted defeat. 2020 has, so far, been an unbeaten year for them.
This illustrates the strength of Hansi Flick’s team right now. While Bayern Munich experienced issues earlier in the 2019/20 campaign, sacking manager Niko Kovac over the winter, the form they found down the stretch meant nobody in the Bundesliga could catch them. And there’s reason to believe they won’t be caught in the Champions League either.
Of course, Bayern Munich aren’t yet completely sure of their place in the Champions League quarter finals, but the 3-0 advantage they hold over Chelsea from the first leg of their last 16 tie means they can start plotting a route through the competition. Next week’s second leg should be a mere formality.
The field hasn’t been this open at the elite level of the European game for a number of years. Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated an entire era of the Champions League, winning it five times between themselves in the last six years, but the two Spanish giants are in the mist of generational transitions. Indeed, Barca and Real Madrid are not the forces they once were.
Defending champions Liverpool were eliminated from the competition in one of the final acts before the coronavirus lockdown, with Atletico Madrid enjoying a night to remember at Anfield. But while Diego Simeone’s side cannot be underestimated in a knockout format, they too have suffered a difficult season.
Juventus bought Cristiano Ronaldo two years ago with the stated purpose of using the Portuguese forward to get themselves over the line in the Champions League, but the Italians have a 1-0 deficit to overturn from their last 16 first leg against Lyon to merely make the quarter finals. What’s more, the Old Lady’s recent form has been somewhat patchy, winning just two of their last seven Serie A games.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain remain threats, but both have still to prove that they can get over the mental barrier of making their first Champions League final. City will also have to find a higher level of performance from what they produced in the Premier League this season if they are to be crowned Europe’s best. PSG, despite being crowned champions of Ligue Un, haven't played a competitive match since March, when COVID-19 shut down the French first division for good.
In almost every way, Bayern Munich look to be the frontrunners. From front to back, left to right, they are a well balanced outfit. In Robert Lewandowski, they boast the most lethal centre forward in Europe right now, with the Polish international netting an astonishing 52 goals so far this season. Behind him, Thomas Muller has been restored as one of the game’s most effective space fillers, while Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman have also enjoyed successful campaigns.
Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich are formidable as a central pairing, with Jerome Boateng back to his best and David Alaba converted into an exceptional ball-playing centre black this season. Then there’s Alphonso Davies, the teenage Canadian who has taken the Bundesliga by storm with his barn-storming displays down the left wing over the last 12 months. Now considered among the best young players in the sport, Davies has given Bayern Munich another dimension.
If Bayern Munich have a weak link it can be found at right back, but even Benjamin Pavard is a World Cup winner. The Frenchman will miss next week’s second leg against Chelsea through injury, likely meaning that Kimmich will start in his former place. That’s not necessarily good news for Chelsea. Kimmich is widely regarded as a better option on the right side of defence than Pavard, but now plays in midfield because his influence there is greater.
When the rest of Europe’s elite pitch up in Portugal to play the mini-tournament designed to complete the Champions League knockout stages, the majority will do so having had very little rest. The Serie A teams are cutting it closest, with Atalanta, Juventus, and Napoli only playing their final league matches this past weekend.
Bayern Munich don’t have this issue, though. By the time the Bavarians welcome Chelsea to the Allianz Arena next week, it’ll have been over a full month since they played a competitive match. Flick’s players should be well-rested, as if they needed another advantage over the competition. The Champions League is Bayern Munich’s to lose.