By Kris Voakes
There was a palpable feeling of inevitability as Mario Mandzukic slotted home Bayern Munich’s killer first away goal against Juventus on Wednesday night. They had simply been the best team on the night just as they were eight days earlier at the Allianz Arena, proving worthy 2-0 winners in both legs. And if the oft-used phrase ‘the best team won’ is to be uttered at Wembley on May 25, then surely it will be die Roten lifting the Champions League trophy aloft.
Over the last two midweeks, the Bavarian giants have once more shown everybody that they are the best team in Europe right now and must surely be considered as the favourites to win this season’s competition.
Yes, they have fallen at the final hurdle with regularity in recent times - with defeats in 2010 and particularly 2012 hitting them right where it hurts - but, just as they have blown away the opposition in the Bundesliga this term, they are primed to deliver on the continent as well.
|MATCH FACTS | Juve 0-2 Bayern
Yet those same critics are all-too-willing to rule out Bayern as serious front-runners because of nothing more than the events of years gone by. Very few give credence to the idea that the German champions may simply be more driven and more determined as a result of last season’s final defeat to Chelsea, as well as the participation of many of their players in Germany’s no-show against Italy in the Euro 2012 semi-final which followed soon after.
Hard evidence tells us that Bayern are the continent’s most in-form side. While the more pragmatic Real Madrid are shaping up for a serious run at La Decima, it is die Roten who truly have the team to fear. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and a backline including the likes of Philipp Lahm, Dante and David Alaba will be difficult for even Messi to contemplate breaching, especially given the support and direction ahead of them which dictates that Bayern spend little of their time without the ball in most games.
In possession, they are frightening, showing an ability to play at high speed for long periods. With the industry and artistry of Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger feeding the forever-threatening front four, consisting at various times of top quality players like Mandzukic, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Franck Ribery, Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, they are simply the most formidable all-round unit in the European game as it stands.
The fear is that they will not get the praise they deserve for just how good they are unless they are triumphant in north-west London in six weeks’ time. If they fail again, they will simply be written off as the lovable, laughable nearly-men that some critics are too quick to want to label them as.
But the reality is very different and if a fifth Champions League triumph is what it takes for them to receive the headlines that they have earned with their magnificent football this term let us all hope that is what they achieve. In realistic terms, it is now Bayern’s trophy to lose.