Munich, Wednesday @baromeo
Bayern Munich’s iron-grip on the Bundesliga shows no signs of weakening, but in Germany there is fear the lack of strong domestic rivals is hurting their Champions League chances.
Despite Saturday’s goalless draw at home to Hertha Berlin, Bayern finished the weekend 20 points clear. Bayern are steaming towards a sixth straight title, but recent European success has eluded them. “Until April, Bayern won’t have any challenges,” bemoaned German magazine Kicker. “How can they keep up pressure in the squad?
“It won’t be easy given a sixth successive title is practically in the bag and there isn’t a single week in March, other than the return trip to Istanbul, with two matches.” Their 5-0 hammering of 10-man Besiktas in last week’s last-16 first leg, leaves Bayern on the verge of a Champions League quarter-final berth, unless disaster strikes in the return leg on March 14.
Bayern last won the competition in 2013, but in each of the four seasons since they have lost in the Champions League knock-out stage to Spanish clubs. Pep Guardiola’s team bowed out of the semi-finals to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in consecutive seasons. Last season, under Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern lost in the quarter-finals to Real.
Critics say a dearth of strong domestic rivals means Bayern are rarely tested and struggle when under pressure. Bundesliga teams tend to defend conservatively against Bayern. “The attitude is often that opponents don’t want to lose heavily,” said ex-Bayern midfielder Michael Ballack. “There is often too much respect.” -AFP