Champions League: Why Schweinsteiger and Revenge Will Motivate Bayern

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Champions League: Why Schweinsteiger and Revenge Will Motivate Bayern
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Bastian Schweinsteiger was left distraught after his penalty miss in the Champions League shootout last season.

Forget Lionel Messi lining up against David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic et al. for Paris Saint-Germain. Forget the chances of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder helping Galatasaray defeat Real Madrid.

There was only one standout tie when the Champions League quarterfinal draw was made. Bayern Munich vs. Juventus. The runaway Bundesliga leaders paired with the Serie A table-toppers.

This is the mouthwatering clash UEFA's elite tournament was crying out for in the last eight.

For Bayern, this year's Champions League is an opportunity to put right recent history. The Bavarian club have twice been losing finalists in the last three years, with last season's penalty-shootout defeat to Chelsea hurting even more than the 2010 loss to Inter Milan.

Coach Jupp Heynckes has guided the team to a 20-point lead in the Bundesliga, and their first title since 2010 is expected to be secured before the second leg against Juventus a week on Wednesday.

This has been a defining campaign for Heynckes and Bayern. With so much to prove after successive Bundesliga titles for Borussia Dortmund, the Allianz Arena club could not afford another missed opportunity.

Heynckes has not allowed his team to let up, and the 9-2 win over Hamburg at the weekend represented Bayern's 10th consecutive win.

However, it is the bruising from the defeat by Chelsea last May which is inspiring Bayern in the Champions League.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Schweinsteiger celebrates the UCL semifinal win over Real Madrid last year.

After seeing off the challenge of Real Madrid in the semifinal, Heynckes' team were poised to write their own folklore with their first European Cup since the penalty-shootout win over Valencia in 2001. The fact it could be done in front of their own supporters at the Allianz Arena was another added incentive.

Football, though, is a cruel mistress, and Bayern's nerve failed at the crucial moment, while Petr Cech, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole all produced performances of a lifetime.

Didier Drogba's final touch in a Chelsea shirt wasn't so much a match-winner, it was a devastating knife through the heart for Bayern.

But the Bavarians have lifted themselves for the current season and have exorcised their demons in the Bundesliga by winning their opening eight league matches, and their current run of 10 successive wins have prevented any fears of missing out on the title again.

Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez were all part of the starting XI that was beaten by Roberto Di Matteo's team. Not one of those players has let up in Bayern's pursuit of the Bundesliga and Champions League this season.

For Schweinsteiger, especially, success this season is driven by the need to atone for the disappointment of last season.

The midfielder scored the decisive penalty in the semifinal shootout victory at Real Madrid, but then missed his spot-kick in the final to gift Drogba his chance of history.

Schweinsteiger might have been the subject of an April Fool's report today, at least we hope it's a prank story (via Championsleague.ca), but he is the cog which has kept Bayern turning this season.

The absence of the Germany international for the second leg of the last-16 tie was a key factor in Arsenal almost upsetting the odds last month.

The 28-year-old is the heartbeat of the Bayern team, dictating the tempo from central midfield with supreme technical ability and distribution, and it is little wonder the national coach refers to him as "The Brain" (via ESPN).

Juventus coach Antonio Conte and wily Andrea Pirlo will need all of their tactical prowess to offset the influence of the man nicknamed "Piggy" (via The Guardian).

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