There’s a carnival mood at Bayern Munich, but Champions League tie with Chelsea is the banana skin that could plunge their season back into crisis as they face Blues for first time since nightmare 2012 final
- Bayern Munich have one eye on the troubles of the past ahead of Chelsea clash
- Chelsea beat Bayern in their own backyard in the 2012 Champions League final
- Hansi Flick has impressed since being hired and could be considered long-term
- The club will expect to reach the latter stages after last season’s limp knockout
- The Bayern boss has also continued to establish young players in the first team
It was all smiles in the Bayern Munich camp on Monday, as Hansi Flick’s side put the finishing touches on preparations for their Champions League clash with Chelsea.
Flick, who turns 55 this week, was treated to a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’, and there was good news as Leon Goretzka returned to training after picking up a knock at the end of last week.
Yet amid the good cheer – it is carnival season in southern and western Germany – Bayern have one eye on the troubles of the past as they head to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Hansi Flick has been putting the finishing touches to Bayern Munich ahead of Chelsea clash
It was all smiles in camp with the players serenading Flick with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’
There is the recent past – a slightly manic performance against bottom-of-the-table Paderborn last Saturday in which several players failed to impress and only a late strike from Robert Lewandowski sealed three points.
And then, of course, there is the distant past. The last time Chelsea and Bayern met was in the Champions League final. That fateful night in May 2012, when Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Co. trashed Bavarian dreams of being crowned kings of Europe in their own stadium.
Much has changed at both clubs in the eight years since, and Bayern remain a side in transition as the class of 2012 continue to fade into history. They go into the second round tie as wary favourites, aware that Chelsea could be the banana skin that ruins the mood and plunges them back into crisis.
Sportsmail has the lowdown on Bayern’s topsy-turvy season.
Bayern Munich face Chelsea and will be wary of their Champions League final heartbreak
After a turbulent but ultimately successful year in charge, even a domestic double was not enough to save Niko Kovac’s skin as the squad turned on him and his reign imploded in the autumn. He left after a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt with Bayern in fourth, six points off the leaders.
Since then, the Flick factor has fired the champions back to the top of the Bundesliga. Joachim Loew’s former right-hand man Hansi Flick was initially hired as a stopgap until the end of the calendar year, but is now being talked about as a long-term solution.
Flick was hired as a stopgap but is now considered a long-term solution after positive results
Flick has got struggling stars such as Thomas Muller firing again, and was hailed this week by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as having ‘brought the Bayern philosophy back’, with the Bayern CEO comparing him to Louis Van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.
He is certainly playing a more expansive style of football, and a more successful one, with 13 wins in 16 games since taking charge in November.
Champions League ambitions
Yet Flick’s future in the Bayern dugout may still depend above all on how Bayern fare in the Champions League.
At Munich airport on Monday, Rummenigge spoke to reporters about the ‘significant international expectations’ at the club. Translated from Bayern-speak, that means that Flick is expected to go far in Europe after last season’s second-round exit to Liverpool.
Bayern were limp in their knockout to Liverpool last year and the approach angered club chiefs
Their first task will be to ensure they come away with an away goal against Chelsea. Aside from defeat itself, it was the negative football Bayern played against Liverpool which infuriated players and bosses alike.
Star striker Lewandowski was one of several players to voice strong criticism of Kovac after that tie, and this year, he is determined to take his team further.
‘I still believe that one day we will play in the Champions League final and win it,’ Lewandowski told the Guardian last week. The Pole is still yet to win Europe’s biggest prize, and despite his relentless scoring has often fired blanks for Bayern in the latter stages of the tournament.
Amid all the semi-final, quarter-final and second round exits of the last ten years, it is the 2012 final which still smarts the most for Bayern, and that should add spice to Tuesday’s proceedings.
Several players from the 2012 vintage still play key roles in the current Bayern inside, including Muller, Manuel Neuer and David Alaba.
All of them have attempted to play down the significance of coming up against Chelsea again.
Bayern’s 2012 final defeat on penalties to Chelsea will likely add spice to Tuesday’s clash
Former president Uli Hoeness struck a defiant tone and wants the club to make up for the loss
‘We don’t necessarily have to talk about it,’ Neuer stonily told reporters, while Muller insisted it had ‘nothing to do’ with the game this week.
But former president Uli Hoeness, who previously described the 2012 nightmare as being even worse than the dramatic defeat to Manchester United in the 1999 Final, struck a different tone.
‘We do have something to make up for here,’ said Hoeness on Monday.
Bild may have run a piece headlined ‘Why Bayern no longer need to fear Chelsea’ this week, but it is safe to say that in Bavaria itself, the old guard will not be making that mistake again.
Though there is still a core of veterans in this Bayern squad, the current crop are also perhaps the most unfamiliar Bayern side of the last few years.
The likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mats Hummels and Rafinha left last year, making more room for precocious youngsters and new star signings.
The current crop at the club are perhaps the most unfamiliar Bayern team of the last few years
Flick has continued to establish younger players into the first team, such as Serge Gnabry
One of Kovac’s major successes at Bayern was in establishing younger players such as Serge Gnabry and Niklas Sule in the first team, and Flick has continued that work.
While Sule is still out injured, Gnabry showed his quality in the 7-2 demolition of Tottenham earlier this season, and Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies – whose dad is a Chelsea fan – has also become a key player as both a winger and part-time full back.
The youngsters have largely impressed more than the new signings this season. Alvaro Odriozola and Philippe Coutinho have both been underwhelming so far, while record signing Lucas Hernandez is only now returning from a long spell out injured.
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