The UEFA Champions League has reached the business end of the competition. It's knockout football. There is no margin for error, there can be no more slip-ups. Ahead of the round of 16 second legs, we take a closer look at how Bayern Munich made it through the group stage and assess their chances of marching into the quarter-finals.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
Bayern’s journey through the group stage was largely routine, but disappointing relative to their recent history. A shock 3-2 defeat to Rostov in Russia on Matchday 5 saw them fail to win their UCL group for the first time since 2009-10. A 1-0 loss in Madrid to Atletico (who eliminated Bayern at the semi-final stage last season) on Matchday 2 ultimately saw Diego Simeone’s side emerge as group-winners.
MOST EXCITING MOMENT
The Robert Lewandowski show in Eindhoven versus PSV will go down as the highlight of the group stage for the German champions. After the Dutch took the lead, Lewy inspired a Bayern fightback, scoring twice while also becoming first player since the beginning of data collection to hit the woodwork three times in a single UCL match. The win saw Bayern secure a place in the knockout stage of the competition for the 14th consecutive season.
Besting last year’s foes Atletico was always going to be coach Carlo Ancelotti’s toughest test this season. Falling in Spain cost them top spot and confirmed his side will meet a group-winner in the round of 16. What nobody saw coming was the defeat to Rostov, however, a match that saw the players and coaching staff collectively concede they must stamp out defensive errors if they are to progress.
With five goals in six matches during the group stage, it is clear to see that Lewy has been Bayern’s standout performer in the UCL so far, and that the Poland international will have a huge say in the club’s chances of taking a sixth European crown. He will be particularly desperate to make it to another final after losing out (to Bayern) while playing for Dortmund in the 2013 showpiece.
CHANCES OF PROGRESSION
Despite qualifying as runners-up, Bayern remained favourites against Premier League club Arsenal, who have lost in the last 16 for six seasons in a row. Bayern defeated the Gunners at this stage in 2013 and 2014, and go into the second leg aware their job is largely complete after a 5-1 demolition of Arsene Wenger's side in last month's first leg. With 16 straight home wins in the UCL, the first leg was always going to be crucial, and Bayern did most of the work at the fortress that is the Allianz Arena.