CL Special: From Sporting Lisbon To Barcelona - Bayern All Hype, Mostly Tripe

The Bavarians might be a little like a certain X-Woman, but not even superpowers can get them out of this mess, writes's Sulmaan Ahmad...
"Wow," everyone said, when they saw the Bayern final scores roll in from each leg against Sporting in the second round of the Champions League. "This is a team that could emerge as a dark horse."

Maybe they could have. The trouble is, anyone who watched the two-part terrorising of Sporting will have seen that almost all of the goals were handed to the Bundesliga champions courtesy of defending so horrifying that the highlights weren't allowed to be shown pre-watershed.

Sporting actually began the first leg with some promise, but when the first Bayern goal went in, they had mentally packed up and gone home already.

One thing Bayern are, to a level unique to them, is ruthless. They will kill upon the most subtle of invitations and keep stamping on the corpse until a whistle is blown and they're ordered to stop. The assassination of Sporting was akin to Germany's monumental massacres of San Marino and the like. Nobody manages a big win quite like the Mannschaft - they can overpower the pluckiest of underdogs, as well as teams of considerable skill - but champions, real champions, tend to be their undoing. That's the difference between the Germany of old and new. We all saw the World Cup final in 2002, semi-final in 2006 and the final of Euro 2008.

Bayern are similar, most likely due to the fact they have a habit of monopolising the Bundesliga's best talent in a manner unlike almost any other side in Europe. They are Germany. When Germany are great, so are Bayern, and vice versa.

People expect them to be great. In the past, they have been great - the side in the 1970s remains one of the best ever seen - and the side of around a decade ago is up there with modern greats such as the Real Madrid Galacticos, Milan dream team, Man United double-winners and, lastly, the Barcelona side that bulldozed through them in one humiliating half at Camp Nou last week.

It seems that in consuming of Sporting as they did, they ended up inheriting their powers of unbridled incompetence. Anyone familiar with the Marvel comic book craze that has recently resurfaced in movie form will know of the X-Men, and the character Rogue, who upon coming into contact with another human being, absorbs their powers. Are Bayern Rogue, in team form? Now that would make an entertaining comic book - something about Bastian Schweinsteiger screams 'supervillain'.

Bayern are a team of momentum. Had they faced a sterner test in the second round, they may not have folded so easily at Camp Nou. It was as if they were the Big Bad Wolf, eating poor, defenceless (literally) Little Red Riding Hood but then getting killed by the hunter.

Maybe there are a few more suitable analogies based on children’s tales out there, but the gist of it is that this Bayern side is no better than Germany - a national team that is not in the shape to take on the world and made it to the Euro final overcoming only Portugal as a recognised top side; this, a Portugal team that may not even qualify for the World Cup.

Die Roten have not been so fortunate. They have run into a genuine contender at the quarter-final stage and this is where they will meet their end.

Does Juergen Klinsmann need time, or is he just not that good a coach? Serious questions are being asked from all quarters of the ex-Bayern and Germany legend. He had an impressive World Cup as coach of the national side, with home backing and free-spirited attacking, but it cannot be forgotten how rocky the road there proved to be.

At Bayern, he has shown little aptitude to cope with the rigorous demands of day-to-day, weekend-to-weekend coaching and management at the highest level of football. The Bundesliga, while offering endless excitement, provides a damning assessment of Germany's superpower, as they are losing with such regularity that they could yet drop out of contention for the title.

Rest assured, it will take the Bundesliga trophy to keep Franck Ribery at the Allianz Arena and even then, no guarantees can be made on his future. Somebody big - really big - is bound to come calling and the tears in his eyes after the 4-0 loss at Camp Nou and consoling from compatriot Thierry Henry suggest it's Barcelona. The papers have said it, and now so has his Bayern team-mate and former Barca boy, Mark van Bommel. Regardless of where it will be, he's ready to make a move up another rung in European football. Bayern aren't at the top anymore.

He has been the architect of so much of their good work this season that there will be fears for Bayern's midfield without him. Anatoliy Tymoschuk will no doubt prove a superb signing from Zenit St. Petersburg, but replacing Ribery's creative spark and driving force will be near impossible.

A rumoured swoop for Napoli duo Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi would be an inspired first move, but making fantasy a reality in life after Ribery and after the ageing contingent of Luca Toni, Ze Roberto, Van Bommel and even Miroslav Klose, with Lucas Podolski out of the picture as any kind of successor, will require a genuine saviour - but who's ready to take that mantle?

Sulmaan Ahmad,