Bits and Pieces
On the other hand,Miles Austin Youth Jersey, Bayern strengthened the defense of an already potent squad with national side goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Brazilian right fullback Rafinha and Jérôme Boateng, a Germany international of Ghanaian origin. Together with recognized players at the back (Philipp Lahm, Daniel van Buyten), in midfield (Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anatoliy Tymoschuk) and especially up front (Arjen Robben at last back to full fitness, an injury-free Franck Ribéry and a free-scoring Mario Gómez,Ben Roethlisberger Youth Jersey, who’s netted an impressive 35 goals in 37 outings this campaign), Heynckes has forged a formidable team that is still in the hunt of an amazing treble. The same feat which only narrowly escaped them two years ago, when – under Louis van Gaal – they were beaten 2-0 by Internazionale in the Madrid Champions League final.
The almighty Barcelona is still arguably the best team in the world – and therefore favourites to retain their Champions League crown,Nick Mangold Jets Jersey. Nonetheless,Terrell Suggs Ravens Jersey, their way to Munich seems harder than Bayern’s; they now play seven-time champions Milan and then (should they qualify) either Benfica or Chelsea. One thing is certain, whatever two sides reach the showpiece event: come May 19 there will be no room for alliance at the Allianz Arena.
But those were certainly not Bayern’s problems. With Jupp Heynckes back at the helm for a third bite at the cherry, having replaced the inexperienced caretaker Andries Jonker, the German giants mostly stuck with the same squad which won nothing since the domestic Supercup, in August 2010. Besides 33-year-old Miro Klose, whose contract would not be renewed, and Hamit Altintop, who never really established himself as a first-choice player while at Munich, Bayern also offloaded the second-string duo of Thomas Kraft and Andreas Ottl to Hertha Berlin – incidently, they both featured in Saturday’s 6-0 mauling at the hands of their former team-mates in their own Olympiastadion, as Die Alte Dame stares relegation in the face.
Having said that, it may be the world’s worst kept secret that Bayern have locked their target in winning Europe’s showcase competition this season. With almost every one of their brightest stars at the top of their game, the four-time Champions Cup winners swept away their last three rivals by an overall 20-1 goal margin, including a resounding 7-0 thrashing of Swiss champions Basel – the same side that virtually knocked out last season’s runners-up Manchester United in the group phase. What’s more, Die Roten have been particularly strong at home, winning all five of their Champions League fixtures and in total 17 out of their 19 matches at the Allianz Arena this season; they only failed back on August 7 against Borussia Mönchengladbach, this season once again a force to be reckoned with and in November against Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, losing both matches 0-1.
Bayern’s path to the final will be nothing like a stroll in the park. They first have to knock out Olympique de Marseille, who have fared better on their travels than at home in this Champions League and then there’s the small matter of overcoming Real (who are overwhelming favourites against Cypriot champions APOEL), with the second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu. The Copa del rey holders are probably a better side,Ray Rice Jersey, but the two of them share similar styles of play whilst the Germans have history on their side – they have prevailed four times in previous double headers, as opposed to the Spaniards’ three.
By Panos Bletsos
Let’s take a look at the story so far. Die Roten encountered few problems against Zürich in the Champions League play-offs and then showed their worth by winning a tough-looking group which also included mega-rich, highly ambitious Manchester City, a Napoli side hungry for glory and dangerous-looking Villarreal. The Spanish outfit of course proved to be one of the tournament’s biggest disappointments, finishing the group stage empty-handed, whereas the English Cup holders only managed a transfer to the Europa League (which also didn’t last long).
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Everything is going according to plan and last Friday’s draw at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland has paved the way for perhaps the most eagerly anticipated Champions League final of all time: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. The two Spanish giants have avoided each other in the last eight and they will not meet in the semis either, if (or rather when) they get there. But isn’t there any other side capable of upsetting the odds and getting to Munich instead?
Actually, there is – and in fact they won’t have to travel very far should they make the May 19 final. Bayern have stumbled once or twice on their way to the quarterfinals, but seem to be hitting top form at exactly the right time, as the season reaches its business end. And perhaps, as the whole world awaits an unprecedented El Clásico showdown,Champ Bailey Broncos Jersey, the most successful German outfit ever may take advantage of an unaccustomed underdog role and claim their fifth title right there in their Allianz Arena backyard.