Flick leading Bayern to heights even Guardiola couldn't reach

Hansi Flick Pep Guardiola Bayern Munich GFX
The Bavarians are the favourites to win the Champions League this season, with their new coach looking to bring European glory back to Munich

Bayern Munich play their 50th game of the season on Friday, taking on Barcelona in the most glamorous of the Champions League quarter-finals.

Only two of the teams left in the last eight have won the European Cup before, and they face off against each other at the Estadio da Luz.

Both Barca and Bayern have won five titles each, with the Bavarians hoping to lift the trophy for the first time since 2013.

Since appearing in the final in both 2012 and 2013, Bayern have not returned to the biggest game in club football, despite having spent three seasons under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, who broke multiple domestic records but could not crack Europe with the German side.

Guardiola’s first season in Munich was a revelation as Bayern won the domestic double as well as the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, scoring 150 goals in 56 games across all competitions.

And yet this season's iteration of Bayern are outstripping the current Manchester City boss' best efforts at the Allianz Arena and look well on course to do what he never could: reach the Champions League final.

Hansi Flick took over from Niko Kovac earlier in the campaign and under to his guidance, this season’s Bayern team are scoring at a higher rate than Guardiola’s finest side as well as Jupp Heynckes’ treble-winning team of 2012-13.

In 49 games, Bayern have scored 147 goals so far this season, and are just four goals off the club record Heynckes set when the team last lifted the Champions League.

After moving from Barcelona to Munich, Guardiola won 21 of his first 25 games in charge, a new club record which stood only until Flick took over in 2019 as the former Bayern midfielder went one better and won 22 of his first 25 matches.

Heading into the Barca tie, Flick has extended this to 30 wins and one draw from his first 33 games at the helm, even leading his own players to compare his management style to Guardiola’s .

"The coach's thumbprint is unmistakable," midfielder Thomas Muller told the Suddeutsche Zeitung . "We all want the same thing, and are pulling in the same direction.

"The last time we were so well drilled was under Pep Guardiola. Every player was allowed to add their own touch to his position based on his preferences, strengths and weaknesses, but the role was always clear. There were no ifs, buts or maybes.

GFX Muller on Flick

"Hansi gives us clear guidelines - not options, but specifics. That's why we were able to come back so well after he took charge."

Flick, who was Germany's assistant manager when they won the World Cup in 2014, was quick to play down the praise, preferring to push the attention and credit onto his players and coaches.

"I read that and I was happy,” Flick told Sport1 . “Even more so as to how Thomas speaks about his team-mates. 

“That's more important than praising me. That shows me that there is big appreciation in the team. I pass the praise on to my coaching staff. It's a confirmation for the work we are doing. 

“In the end, I'm responsible for things.  But my coaching staff supports me very well and helps me every day so that I can focus on the essentials."

The essential for any Bayern coach is European success. Domestic dominance is expected when you are the manager of a club who has finished top of the Bundesliga in each of the last eight seasons.

Hansi Flick David Alaba Bayern Munich DFB-Pokal 2019-20

Despite that success, the Bavarians have seen head coaches come and go due to the fact that they could not conquer the Champions League.

Kovac won the double with Bayern last season, but even that was not enough to win over the fans, players or the board.

At Bayern, Guardiola knew the task at hand, and after another semi-final exit in 2016, he told reporters, “I’ve done my best here. But if you say that I had to win the Champions League, then I’ve failed. Go ahead and write that I have failed.”

Guardiola is still searching for his own Champions League triumph, having gone nine years without lifting the trophy, with detractors pointing to Lionel Messi’s influence rather than Guardiola’s as the reason Barcelona won the competition in 2009 and 2011.

Flick’s side will come up against Messi on Friday having looked unstoppable for much of 2020. They were able to pick up exactly where they left off after returning from a month’s break to demolish Chelsea 4-1 in the last 16 last time out, and are many observers' favourites to lift the trophy in Lisbon on August 23.

If they deliver on that potential, then Flick will have done what Guardiola never could in Munich. There is a reason Muller and rest of Bayern's squad rate him so highly.