Yesterday's marquee match-up in the Champions League saw two teams headed in completely different directions. Bayern met Arsenal at the Emirates stadium on Tuesday and thrashed the Gunners 3-1.
Bayern looked dominant in the first leg against Arsenal.
From the get-go it looked to be a long night for the London side, as the Bavarian's controlled the tempo of the game. It didn't take long for Bayern to rip the Arsenal defense to shreds, as Franck Ribery played a magnificent ball to Toni Kroos at the top of the penalty box, the German international then struck it on the half volley past Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny. That was only 7 minutes into the game. From then on Bayern continued to pound the Arsenal defense only for Thomas Müller to score of a muffed save by Szczesny. It didn't look all bad for Arsenal though, as they pulled one back after halftime through a Lukas Podolski header, but Bayern would soon regain control. Terrific build-up play saw Mario Mandzukic score a circus goal to end the night 3-1 and virtually knock out the London side.
Are Bayern the team to beat? Their sound dismantling of Arsenal in this first leg leave little questions as to how strong Bayern can be against teams outside of Germany. Sure, Arsenal aren't flying high right now, but the England is a country in which German sides don't usually do well, and Bayern handled this game like it was just another game and not a Champions League game. Looking comfortable in a hostile atmosphere, controlling the tempo, and not even being at full strength (defenders Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng did not play) Bayern seemed in their element the whole game. Manuel Neuer looked to be in control between the sticks for Bayern, Phillip Lahm and David Alaba did a great job of bombing down the wings and getting back on defense when needed, Kroos controlled the attacking play while Schweinsteiger and Martinez commanded the midfield.
Bayern look poised to make another Champions League run.
The recipe for success was evident last night for Bayern, and while they have their flaws they seem to be able to mask them fairly easily. So what team is able to beat Bayern right now over 2 legs? The only team I see is Barcelona. Should we read into a 3-1 romping of a 5th place EPL side too much? No, of course not, but if you look at their body of work, the Germans are more than formidable and a daunting opponent for any team to face. In recent years Bayern have become a team very much under the radar even though they are one of the top 5 clubs in the world. Having made 2 of the last 3 Champions League finals Bayern knows how to get there. Finishing the job has been another thing for them, but this team looks poised to roll into a third Champions League final in 4 years.
What are your thoughts? Are Bayern a tournament favorite? Who do you think can beat the Bavarians?
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