Bayern Munich may have suffered a narrow defeat to Villarreal in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final, but there's still an excellent chance they will stamp their ticket to the last four.
bundesliga.com has rounded up some of the reasons why the record Bundesliga champions will be feeling confident at the Allianz Arena next Tuesday…
1) Lethal Lewandowski
When you enter every competition hoping to win it, as Bayern do, it makes life easier to have a striker like Lewandowski in the mix. The peerless Pole grabbed a hat-trick as the German side demolished Salzburg 7-1 in the second leg of the last 16 – take note, Villarreal – bringing his season tally in the competition to 12. In the group stage, the 33-year-old also hit a treble against Benfica and braces against Barcelona and Dynamo Kiev.
To put that into context, only Lionel Messi (2011/12), Cristiano Ronaldo (2013/14, 2015/16, 2017/18) and Lewy himself (2019/20) have ever netted more in a single Champions League campaign. The Bayern man also happens to sit third behind that duo in the competition's all-time top scorers list, with a total of 85 goals for Borussia Dortmund and Bayern.
Watch: Bayern put four past Freiburg in their latest Bundesliga outing
And then there's the Bundesliga. Lewy has very much bestridden the German top flight like a Colossus in recent years, often racking up more goals individually than some teams manage collectively over the course of a campaign. In 2020/21 he broke Gerd Müller's long-standing record by smashing in 41 of them – more than Mainz, Augsburg, Arminia Bielefeld, Cologne, Werder Bremen and Schalke.
He picked up where he left off in 2021/22, and currently sits on 32 goals in 29 outings – 12 clear of his nearest rival for the Torjägerkanone, Bayer Leverkusen's Patrik Schick. He has never gone more than two league games this season without finding the back of the net, and has only failed to make the scoresheet in eight matches.
Powered by Lewandowski's goals, Bayern are nine points clear of Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga, and only need another 16 goals from their last five games to improve their single-season scoring record from 1971/72.
2) Sane shining
While Lewandowski hogs the headlines for his goalscoring achievements, one of his attacking compadres has also been on phenomenal form.
Leroy Sane has been nothing short of sensational in the Champions League this season. The former Manchester City man has been involved in 12 goals, scoring six himself, and he is only the second player after Liverpool's ex-Hoffenheim man Roberto Firmino in 2017/18 to record more than five goals and assists in European club football's premier competition in the same season.
"In the Champions League, it always comes down to tiny things and your form on the day," Sane pointed out to Bild. 'But I've not won it yet, so I'm really motivated."
That motivation has also come from Julian Nagelsmann, who has given Sane public backing in some of his tougher moments since joining Bayern from Manchester City. The head coach is now being rewarded for keeping faith with the 26-year-old Germany star, who is averaging a goal involvement every 59 minutes in this season's competition.
"I've got a great relationship with him," Sane admitted. "He keeps showing me how I can perform even better in his system and how this can improve us all as a team."
3) Big game know-how
Villarreal are playing in the Champions League quarter-finals for only the third time in their history, and it's the first time they've made it this far in 13 years. Admittedly, they drew first blood in Spain, but recent history has shown that a remontada is never far away in this competition. Bayern's experience should stand them in good stead; this is their 10th visit to the last eight in the past 11 seasons.
No team has reached the quarter-finals more in the competition's current format, with the record German champions totalling 20 last-eight outings. They won all six 2021/22 group games — the only team left in this season's competition to do so — as they reached the knockout stages for the 14th successive season, and the 24th time in the last 25 campaigns.
Moreover, Bayern are a seriously formidable prospect at the Allianz Arena. Just ask Salzburg, who had been nursing hopes of a famous win after their 1-1 first-leg draw in Austria, only to be blown away in Bavaria. In the past three seasons, Bayern have only lost a single Champions League home game, averaging over three goals per match.
4) Can anyone beat Neuer?
Arnaut Danjuma did find a way through at the Estadio de la Ceramica, but the answer is usually a resounding 'Nein'. Though he has just turned 36, the Bayern goalkeeper remains the benchmark by which all other custodians are measured, and so far they all still come up short.
Neuer has kept four clean sheets in the Champions League this season, that's one more than he achieved in eight games last term. It also equals the tally he had at the same stage of the 2019/20 competition when Bayern went on to lift their fifth 'Cup with the big ears'.
Bayern have conceded a joint-competition low six goals this season, a total matched only by Real Madrid, while Neuer, who tallied a record 311th Bundesliga win recently, has conceded on average less than one goal a game in his 105 Champions League appearances for Bayern, keeping a clean sheet on 44 occasions.
"He is without doubt the best goalkeeper in the world," said teammate Leon Goretzka earlier this season. "He's like a machine right now. He makes mistakes, he's only human. But in the situations where you cannot make a mistake, he doesn't make one. He's always there, year in year out. That's simply world-class."
5) The Davies factor
Speaking of world-class, the return of Alphonso Davies is excellent news for Bayern as they look to conquer Europe for the seventh time. The Canadian sensation had been out of commission since December due to a mild heart condition, but returned in the first leg against Villarreal and will be hoping to engage the afterburners at the Allianz.
Arguably the world's best left-back at the tender age of 21, Davies managed to play the full 90 minutes in Spain despite his long layoff. Given how quickly he has always adapted to the challenges of elite-level football, the 'Bayern Roadrunner' is bound to be back at his best faster than you can say "Meep meep".
"You could see that he still needs some time to find his rhythm and be his old self again," Nagelsmann admitted. "But physically he's in very good shape."
Indeed, the recently named CONCACAF Player of the Year had the most shots (3), successful dribbles (7) and challenges won (15) of any Bayern player in the first leg. And if he and the rest of Nagelsmann's charges hit their usual heights on home soil next week, you suspect the Yellow Submarine could sink without a trace.
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