Next up, Champions League – why Bundesliga kings Bayern are favourites to conquer Europe
One done, two still.
Bayern Munich are Bundesliga champions for the eighth time in a row. They are in the DFB Cup final for the seventh time in nine years. And yet, like almost a decade ago, their season will mainly depend on how well they do in the Champions League.
They are certainly the favorites to win that too.
Bayern's triumphs in the Bundesliga often feel like processions, but 2019-20 was a real struggle. They suffered five losses in the first half of the season, two of them after a blow to Eintracht Frankfurt from November 5 to 1, which cost head coach Niko Kovac his job. They have been winter champions seven times since 2009, but were four points behind leaders RB Leipzig at the turn of the year, and Borussia Dortmund, the top scorer, also threatened to withdraw.
They turned to Hansi Flick out of desperation rather than long-term vision and gave the former assistant a temporary contract to stabilize the ship while top-class names were being courted, but his 2020 record would envy and prove every trainer in the world, why his new full-time contract was fully deserved.
Since December 14, Bayern have won 17 of 18 Bundesliga games. The only mistake was a goalless home game against Leipzig in February. You have scored at least twice in all games except three. They scored three goals five times in a game and scored six goals twice, leaving ten clean sheets ten times. Even the two-month discharge from the coronavirus did nothing to stop her from walking. A 1-0 win in Dortmund on May 26 brought them a seven-point cushion, and that was realistic.
In all competitions, Flick won 24 of his first 27 responsible games, beating Pep Guardiola's 22 mark. Bayern were the first team to score 90 Bundesliga goals in the first 30 rounds and score 132 goals in all games this season, a record for one German team.
Flick found the Midas touch in its players, both among the rising stars and among the established elite. He made 19-year-old Alphonso Davies a devastating offensive full-back and helped Leon Goretzka gain a foothold in midfield. Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng look full of new strength after their Bayern future was questioned last year.
In attack, Thomas Müller reached Kevin De Bruyne's record of 20 assists for one season - a spectacular record for a number 10 that doesn't set any standards. Robert Lewandowski has 31 league goals for the season and 46 in all competitions, a personal record.
In fact, it would be difficult for you to find a Bayern player out of shape among the full options. Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry are a threat, especially when Joshua Kimmich pulls the midfield and his old right-back role is firmly in Benjamin Pavard's hands. Thiago's recent muscle injury was offset by Goretzka's rise. After Lucas Hernandez and Ivan Perisic are fit again and Philippe Coutinho comes back, there is a depth for Bayern that is hard to beat.
All of this means that Bayern will be the best-prepared team after the return of the Champions League, probably in August. Their home league started earlier and ended faster than their rivals, except Paris Saint-Germain, who won't have angry balls for five months when the competition resumes. They have had the strongest year 2020 of any remaining team in the past 16 years and are currently least worried about injuries.
Before the return leg at the Allianz Arena, they have a 3-0 lead over Chelsea in the first leg, which reduces the pressure before the restart. Meanwhile, Real Madrid and Manchester City are facing an exciting fight at Etihad Stadium, Barcelona are 1-1 with Napoli, Juventus is a goal against Lyon and Liverpool have been beaten by Atletico Madrid, who have won only four games since January 9. Over There will also be a DFB Cup final against Bayer Leverkusen on July 4th - a perfect opportunity to further enhance the mood three weeks ago of intensive training for the continental games against opponents who are far below the current standards of Bayern.
Bayern's last European triumph came when they won the treble under Jupp Heynckes in 2012/13. If the Champions League really defines its season, there is every chance that 2019-20 will remember.
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