Having already lifted the Bundesliga and DFB Cup in 2019/20, Bayern Munich continue their hunt for the continental treble when they take on Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. bundesliga.com presents five reasons why the Bavarians will triumph over Lionel Messi and Co. in Lisbon…
1) The world’s form team
Bayern arrive in Portugal on the back of a scintillating run of results: 23 competitive matches in 2020 and not a single defeat. In total, that unbeaten run stretches to 27 fixtures going back to the 3-1 win over Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur in their final Champions League Group B game last December.
That hasn’t been any old run, with a few scrappy draws boosting the numbers: of those 27 games, Bayern have won 26, scoring 86 goals (at a rate of 3.3 per game), conceding just 20 (0.8 per game) and keeping 12 clean sheets. The other result was a 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig - the only team to stop Bayern scoring this year.
In fact, since that game on 9 February, the Munich side have won ALL 18 matches across the league, cup and in Europe - a record run for a German club in professional football. In that time, they’ve netted 56 goals (3.1 per game), conceded just 13 (0.7 per game) and kept clean sheets in fully half of the matches.
Watch: All 100 of Bayern’s Bundesliga goals in 2019/20
How does this run compare with teams around the world? Quite simply, it's peerless. No side in any top division on the planet currently comes close to that 18-game winning run. While over the course of the last 20 matches, no club has won as many matches (19) or scored as many goals (63) as Hansi Flick’s Bayern. By comparison, Barcelona’s record in that time reads: W13 D4 L3, scoring less than two thirds the amount of goals (40).
In the Champions League, the Bavarians have set a new record under the current format (since 2003/04) as the first team to win their first eight games of the campaign. Their 31 goals also represents a new best mark.
2) Robert LewanGOALski
How many times in recent years has Messi gone into a match as anything but the best goalscorer on the field? Some may argue that has never happened, but even the most ardent of Messi supporters has to acknowledge Robert Lewandowski's feats this season.
The Poland captain is the leading scorer in Europe over 2019/20, finding the net a remarkable 53 times in just 44 competitive outings, at a rate of a goal every 73 minutes. By contrast, Messi’s 31 goals have come on average every 120 minutes. In the Champions League alone, Lewandowski’s 13 goals is three more than the next best (Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland) and more than double that of any other player left in the competition.
Watch: How Lewandowski became the world’s best No.9
He has netted in all seven of his European outings this term, having a hand in 17 goals in total thanks to his four assists, which also top that particular chart and is a personal best for him in the Champions League. Lewandowski was involved in all seven goals in the 7-1 aggregate win over Chelsea. His haul of 13 leaves him just one short of equalling Messi’s personal best of 14 from 2011/12, while it has also moved Lewy into outright fourth in the competition’s all-time scoring chart on 66, ahead of Karim Benzema, and trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi and former Schalke man Raul.
All told this season, Lewandowski has failed to score or assist in just six matches. It’s the sort of form that would have seen him walk to this year’s Ballon d’Or, claiming it from Messi, had France Football not taken the decision to cancel the 2020 award. Suppose Lewy will just have to go out and win every other piece of silverware available…
3) The supporting cast
Of course, most eyes will be on the two talismans, but Barcelona can’t afford to lose sight of the rest of this Bayern squad, which may well be the most complete in the Champions League. Starting at the back, Manuel Neuer is among the best goalkeepers of all time and shows no signs of slowing down at 34, continuing to stave off competition from his Barca counterpart Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the battle to be Germany’s No.1.
Behind Lewandowski, there’s an array of attacking talent also capable of scoring and setting up bucket loads of goals. Thomas Müller broke the Bundesliga record for assists in 2019/20 as he chalked up 21, as well as chipping in with eight goals. Across Europe, only Messi has provided more assists in all competitions.
Watch: All of Müller’s Bundesliga goals and assists in 2019/20
Alongside the 2013 treble winner, Serge Gnabry is the other Bayern player in double figures for goals and assists this term, with 20 and 12 apiece. Five of those came in the 7-2 demolition of last season’s finalists Tottenham as he became the first player in Champions League history to score four goals in the second half of a match.
Barcelona’s front three of Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann have a combined 109 goal involvements, compared to 130 for Lewandowski, Müller and Gnabry. The real difference, however, comes in the supporting act, where it takes nine Barca players to reach the 62 goal involvements that Bayern’s next four most prolific players (Philippe Coutinho, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Ivan Perisic) have recorded so far.
It comes as little surprise, then, that Bayern have broken the record for most goals from the first eight games of a Champions League campaign (31) and reached the 100-goal mark in the Bundesliga. The only teams to stop them scoring this season have been Leipzig (that 0-0 draw on Matchday 21) and Dortmund (2-0 in the Supercup).
4) Solid as a Stein at the back
Scoring goals means little if you’re shipping them at the other end. This season, Bayern have been just as adept at breaking down opposition defences as they have at keeping their own watertight.
The Bavarians had the best defence in the Bundesliga and Neuer claimed the honour for the most clean sheets (15). That hadn’t always seemed so likely, with the champions registered just two shutouts in their first 11 matches under Niko Kovac.
Everything changed with the arrival of Flick, though. His hand was somewhat forced due to injuries, but he stumbled upon the seemingly perfect defence, with Benjamin Pavard, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Alphonso Davies in front of Neuer, and Kimmich sweeping up in front of them.
The guile and experience of the new centre-back partnership allowed the two young full-backs to express themselves going forward, while also marshalling them in their defensive duties. In particular, the blistering pace of Davies has meant transitions in both directions down the left have been seamless. The Canadian teenager clocked the fastest speed ever recorded in the Bundesliga when he tore up the Werder Bremen turf at 22.7mph the day Bayern wrapped up the title.
Keeping goals out has been a bit of an issue for Barcelona this season, posting only the fifth-best defence in La Liga and keeping clean sheets in just 35 percent of matches in all competitions - Bayern have done so in 40 percent of their outings.
Watch: Manuel Neuer, the best in the business
5) Flickers of 2013
Bayern’s turnaround under Flick has been nothing short of incredible. Under him, the record champions have won 30 out of 33 competitive matches, scoring 104 goals and conceding just 24.
The 55-year-old has managed to get the best out of every player and the team as a unit, restoring a marginalised Müller to his Raumdeuter-ing best, turning Kimmich into the midfield glue that binds everything, Goretzka into the Incredible Hulk and Davies into one of the best left-backs in the world.
“Hansi has brought togetherness to the team, and has us playing the Bayern way again,” commented CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after Flick secured the club’s 13th domestic double with the DFB Cup final win over Bayer Leverkusen.
It’s the concept of ‘Mia san mia’ that many feel had been lacking for some time but is now back as the team has been rejuvenated while retaining a core of players who identify strongly with the club.
Flick’s win rate in the league of 88 per cent is also the best of any head coach in Bundesliga history. In all competitions, he averages 2.76 points per game, which is even more than Jupp Heynckes managed in his historic 2012/13 campaign (2.65). This Bayern team also average more goals per game (3.15) than the treble winners did (2.80).
Watch: Bayern’s treble-winning 2012/13 season
Looking ahead to this knockout competition in Lisbon, there’s also an element of the unknown with a new format and setup, but again Bayern will feel they have the right man in the hotseat. Flick is no stranger to tournaments, having been assistant to Joachim Löw at two UEFA European Championships and two FIFA World Cups with Germany, famously winning the latter in 2014.
Both Flick and his Bayern players (among them three of Germany’s world champions in Neuer, Boateng and Müller) have described this remaining Champions League campaign as similar to a World Cup, with the teams in camps and facing all-or-nothing knockout ties. Experience is a major bonus in these unusual conditions. Bayern have it in abundance.