Bayern Munich, it turns out, are not the perfect football team, but back in the Bundesliga, they still have a chance to be a historic one.
The road to domestic immortality begins Saturday, and the opponents are one of only three teams to have beaten Bayern this season. That's why Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich is the game we'll be watching this weekend.
Beaten 2-0 at home by Arsenal Wednesday night in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg, Bayern scraped through to the quarterfinals on away goals. Put simply, the team that lost Wednesday night at the Allianz Arena was not the team that dominated Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium three weeks before.
Not surprisingly, such a shocking performance produced a series of stunning facts.
Arsenal were the first team since Borussia Dortmund to beat Bayern by two goals at the Allianz Arena since Borussia Dortmund did it in February 2011.
The Gunners were also the first team to beat Bayern 2-0 in a European game at the Allianz Arena since AC Milan did it in 2007.
In the past 11 years, only four teams including Arsenal have held Bayern scoreless at home in a European match. AC Milan, Juventus and Sporting Lisbon were the other three (above facts h/t @archiert1).
Come on Jupp, tell us where you're hiding the real Bayern Munich...— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) March 13, 2013
"By the skin of our teeth, we managed to make it to the next round with this defeat," said Bayern president Uli Hoeness (via ESPN FC). "I have to say that in all clearness: The team has get back to the football they played three or four weeks ago…for three weeks now we have been playing rubbish."
Added club legend and former president Franz Beckenbauer: "The only good thing tonight is that they advanced. You have to learn from this. You cannot play on like this, or you exit in the next round. No matter who you play."
If Bayern's Champions League credentials are slightly tarnished, their Bundesliga resume remains nearly spotless. Through 25 matches, the Bavarians have lost only once, to Bayer Leverkusen at home on Oct. 28. Having scored 67 goals and conceded only 10—including just one on their travels—Bayern hold an astounding goal-differential of plus-57.
With nine matches remaining, the title race is a one-team affair. Bayern lead two-time defending champs Borussia Dortmund by 20 points and need 16 more to break Dortmund's record—set last season—of 81 in a season.
The quest for history continues Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET) at Bayer's BayArena. Bayern Munich won't be the only team with something at stake. Bayer Leverkusen currently sit in third place and in line for one of the Bundesliga's three automatic Champions League qualification places.
"Maybe there's a positive aspect, a wake-up call of sorts," Bayern's Arjen Robben said after the Arsenal match (via FCBayern.de). "We've been praised from all sides, but look what can happen."
With a 20-point lead, it's almost impossible Bayern could create the kind of drama in the Bundesliga that the Allianz Arena witnessed Wednesday night. But with history at stake and their sense of pride potentially damaged, the runaway league leaders have plenty to play for this weekend.