Bundesliga title not enough for Guardiola, but European glory may be out of reach this time
Should Bayern Munich lose to Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday 29th of April, Josep Guardiola will be tar-and-feathered by the German press. And worse, by his club's heavyweights such as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Franz Beckenbauer.
That has always been a risk since the previous manager, Jupp Heynckes, took the Bavarians to the unprecedented quadruple crown last season (Champions League, Bundesliga, DFB Cup and League Cup).
The enormity of the task was not known to Guardiola when he signed for Bayern in January of 2013, but there it is. And after the 0-1 loss in Madrid in the first leg his team face an uphill battle to reach the finals in Lisbon against either Chelsea or Atlético.
Ok, under Pep, Bayern have won this season's Bundesliga at a record-early date, in late March. They were also crowned European Supercup winners against Chelsea last August and the World Club Cup winners against Raja Casablanca in December.
Cool, but no more than expected of the world's most-hyped manager and his star-studded squad. Bayern did not bring Guardiola for that but to become the first club to win back-to-back continental titles since AC Milan did it 24 years ago.
Munich, a "cursed city"
Both in Spain and in Germany much was made of the fact that Munich had always been an unconquerable fortress for Real Madrid. In ten trips to Bayern's stadium, they lost nine games and drew one. No other European team have caused Madrid so much heartbreak. And the city of Munich is generally hostile to the blancos: they lost even to München 1860 when the two sides met in the Champions Cup in the late sixties.
But, beware: out of ten games played at either the Olympic Stadium or Allianz Arena, only three times did Bayern achieve the result that would take them to this year's finals, and only once in the past 27 years! In 1976, in the glory days of Maier, Beckenbauer, Müller, Hoeness or Roth, the Bavarians defeated Real by 2-0 in the semis (and qualified). The same outcome would put them through on Tuesday evening.
Eleven years later, Bayern thumped Madrid 4-1, also in the semis, before losing the finals in Vienna to Rabah Madjer's back heel flick. The only other big win, again by 4-1, came in the spring of 2000. And it was not even a cup-tie, but an irrelevant match in the group phase of the Champions League, with both teams already qualified for the quarter-finals.
When the same teams met again in the semifinals of the same season, it was Real Madrid that came on top with a 3-2 aggregate thanks to a rare but providential goal by Nicolas Anelka in the second leg in Munich. In the past six home games against the madrilenos, Bayern achieved five 2-1 wins and were held to a 1-1 draw on another occasion.
Madrid just too quick
Not one of those results would do the German champions any good this time. And they may also be worried to note that Madrid scored at least once in every one of their last nine away games with Bayern. Should they score again on Tuesday, Guardiola's men would need at least three goals to remove this ultimate, nasty obstacle on the way to Lisbon.
And Real can score, more than once. Their counterattack is arguably the most lethal in the history of the game. There is no defence that Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema or even their super-fast full backs like Fábio Coentrao cannot outrun. In Madrid, they created three clear chances on the break and were unlucky to be just 1-0 up before half-time.
Guardiola must be concerned about his defence since it proved porous once more this weekend against Werder in the Bundesliga. The visitors went ahead twice before Bayern turn it around to win 5-2. The playing style the Catalan has transplanted from Barcelona onto his current team works wonders against everybody except opponents who, like Real, have a couple of sprinters upfront, who also happen to be clinical finishers.
Ancelotti to outfox Pep
Bayern's defenders are usually deployed in a very advanced position since it is expected of them to participate in the team's intricate short passing game. But when they give away the ball, there are vast expanses of space behind the central defenders for rivals to exploit. Not many teams have sufficiently rapid players to seize such opportunities, but Real Madrid (and Borussia Dortmund) do and that may prove Bayern's undoing.
The possession Guardiola's team boast will do nothing to advance their cause. In order to overcome the deficit, Bayern will have to assume risks and take chances, but odds are the things will not play out as he is hoping. For on the other side there awaits a manager who knows everything about defending a slim advantage and striking with lightning-quick counter-attacks. Incidentally, an Italian: Carlo Ancelotti.
It is no doubt ironic that the current Madrid's coach was a regular on AC Milan's squad who last won two consecutive Champions Cups by defeating none other than Real Madrid on the way to the finals in both seasons. And now he could prevent Bayern to emulate that feat in which he so prominently featured.
Bayern vs Real Madrid
The teams have played 21 matches in the European cup competitions, all of them in the Champions League (until 1992 called the European Cup).
1976. Real 1-1 Bayern; Bayern 2-0 Real
(Bayern through 3-1)
1987. Bayern 4-1 Real; Real 1-0 Bayern
(Bayern through 4-2)
1988. Bayern 3-2 Real; Real 2-0 Bayern
(Real through 4-3)
2000. Real 2-4 Bayern; Bayern 4-1 Real
(group phase - both teams through on points)
2000. Real 2-0 Bayern; Bayern 2-1 Real
(Real through 3-2)
2001. Real 0-1 Bayern; Bayern 2-1 Real
(Bayern through 3-1)
2002. Bayern 2-1 Real; Real 2-0 Bayern
(Real through 3-2)
2004. Bayern 1-1 Real; Real 1-0 Bayern
(Real through 2-1)
2007. Real 3-2 Bayern; Bayern 2-1 Real
(aggregate 4-4, Bayern through on away goals)
2012. Bayern 2-1 Real; Real 2-1 Bayern
(aggregate 3-3, Bayern through on penalties)
2014. Real 1-0 Bayern; Bayern ? Real