Watching Chelsea lift the Champions League trophy last season was utter agony for Bayern Munich. Not only were they the more dominant team by far on the night but they had already been ousted by Borussia Dortmund on the domestic front as well and were left empty-handed after a season that promised so much. The most demoralizing part for the Germans is that they’re all too familiar with such disappointment.
Along with Benfica and Juventus, Bayern have been runners-up in the Champions League on a record five different occasions. Apart from their defeat last season, they were also second best against Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in 2010 and were on the receiving end of Manchester United’s most dramatic comeback in European football in 1999. Over the years, the German national team which invariably consists of plenty Bayern Munich players have endured their fair share of disappointments in the final stages of major competitions.
Heartbreak with Germany
From the current Bavarian side, two players in particular have suffered the fate of their club’s and country’s tendency to stumble at the final hurdle. Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger are figureheads in the current Bayern squad but in order to lead their troops to victory, they’ll have to put past disappointments to rest.
In the span of six years, the two Bayern youth products have lost two World Cup semi-finals, a European Championship final and finished as runners-up in two Champions League finals – that’s five massive trophies they narrowly missed out on which would have put them in football’s elitist group.
Despite their impressive list of domestic accolades, which include 11 league winners’ medals between them, there no doubt exists a significant void in their careers in the absence of a major continental trophy. Now in their late twenties, it’s as good a time as any to rectify that while they are still in the prime of their careers.
Last season's defeat in the final
Bayern’s semi-final clash with Barcelona presents a fantastic opportunity for the German side to establish their supremacy over a team that has dominated Europe for the better part of a decade and thereby inch closer to the coveted trophy.
Lahm and Schweinsteiger have both been part of the German national team that suffered narrow defeats to Spain in the 2008 Euros final and 2010 World Cup semi-finals. Putting one over the Spaniards would go a long way to banishing the demons of their past.
Chance to beat the Spaniards
Bayern are in stunning form this season and show no signs of letting up. After securing the Bundesliga title with a record 6 games to spare, the champions went on to mercilessly trounce Nurnberg and Hannover 4-0 and 6-1 respectively. Given that they are also in the finals of the domestic cup along with VfB Stuttgart, their aspirations of winning the treble are well and truly on course.
As captain and vice-captain, Lahm and Schweinsteiger epitomize the solidarity and efficiency of Bayern Munich this season. Among the four semi-finalists in the Champions League, the Bundesliga outfit are arguably the most balanced side and if they do have any vulnerabilities, they aren’t easily noticeable.
On course for the treble
On the other hand, their Spanish opponents, despite still being regarded as the best team in the world, have had their weaknesses exposed and exploited in broad daylight on more than one occasion. No less than three teams, all from different leagues, have highlighted their frailties and each did so in their own way.
Like Real Madrid, AC Milan and Paris-Saint Germain, Bayern will have to engineer their own method to beat Barcelona. However, given the significant threat they pose themselves, the best approach may just be to play to their own strengths rather than obsessing over their opponents’ weaknesses.
Glory at last?
Lahm and Schweinsteiger will be central to Bayern’s play like they have been over the last 5 or 6 years. Their fierce determination will be fuelled by their past misfortunes and hopefully that will transcend through the rest of the team.
With the phenomenal season they’re enjoying, they have an opportunity to achieve the standards Pep Guardiola would expect from them even before he arrives. The undesirable ‘chokers’ tag definitely has a psychological impact on the players. But if they can garner the mental strength to push through that barrier and play with freedom, with any ‘luck’ they just might renounce that tag for good.
|Can Bayern Munich finally go all the way? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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