Ahead of Celtic kicking off their Champions League group stage campaign next month, we caught up with Bayern Munich fan and editor of Bayerncentral.com Michel Munger to give our readers the lowdown on the German giants.
The Bundesliga side are a major force in European football, but nobody should take defeat against them for granted.... provided they know how to play against Carlo Ancelloti's side.
Individual class has to be the biggest weapon in the Bavarian arsenal. We have seen many teams resisting against FCB’s onslaught for 70, 80 or even 85 minutes, only to concede an amazing goal scored by Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben or Franck Ribéry.
All it takes is one play to break the deadlock, open the floodgates and potentially run up the score until it is 5-0. Many opponents have been there and they have all been sour about it, and it provides a psychological advantage.
Depth is tightly linked to this. Many teams are in trouble if a couple of players get injured. In Munich, a star midfielder who gets sidelined will simply be replaced by another star midfielder. Should Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara pick up knocks, Corentin Tolisso and Sebastian Rudy can jump in.
Another essential asset is a “never say die” attitude. Facing one of the best squads in the world is hard enough; their unwillingness to quit at any point, in any game, makes it even worse.
It may sound arrogant, but a number of FC Bayern’s defeats in the last four years have been caused by poor tactics. Carlo Ancelotti’s game plan produces poor defending, especially in the midfield. When Pep Guardiola was at the helm, he insisted in experimenting in the late stages of a season. Both have contributed to messing things up on occasion.
In addition, the team’s talent level and style of play force many opponents to focus on defending, jamming the penalty and looking for a well-timed counterattack. When 11 men defend in the final third, you have to go up the pitch and risk everything to break them down. It doesn’t matter if they play for Chelsea or even a second-tier club: it’s just insanely difficult to go through.
Arjen Robben: The Flying Dutchman had many injuries throughout his career, but he remains the single most dangerous player whenever fit. Everybody has seen his trademark “cut inside, shoot and curl the ball inside the far post” from the right and few keepers have stopped it.
Robert Lewandowski: When Lewandowski is hot, nobody can handle him. His technique is exquisite, producing goals in unlikely situations. Beware of his free kicks: he converts them at a high rate. I would like him to be more consistent when he gets clear-cut and short-range chances, though.
Thiago Alcantara: Perhaps the best central midfielder in the world last season, Thiago has grown immensely since joining Bayern in 2013. His vision and accuracy make him a passing master who shifts the play in any direction. He keeps the engine running.
Style of play
High possession rate, strong ball retention and the ability to score a goal from any position within seconds. The tactical formation usually is 4-2-3-1 but players retain the freedom to switch positions. Including Lewandowski, who can easily turn into a traditional playmaker with the ball at his feet.
To beat FCB, you better stack up in the penalty area and hope for a counterattack while the back line is exposed.
How far they can go in the Champions League?
Anything but a semi-final or a final will be seen as a failure by numerous fans. Bayern have the skills and coaching experience to make it all the way, but winning the Champions League requires excellent timing and, as we saw last year with Real Madrid luck in the big games.