UEFA Champions League: Plotting Bayern Munich's Path to the Final

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UEFA Champions League: Plotting Bayern Munich's Path to the Final
David Ramos/Getty Images

Bayern Munich are favorites for glory in Saturday's UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London. For those who have followed Bayern this season, that fact comes as little surprise.

Beaten finalists a year ago in their home stadium, Bayern reloaded in the offseason and stormed to the Bundesliga title in record style, clinching the trophy with six matches to spare. After a slow start in the group stage, Jupp Heynckes' team has enjoyed remarkably similar dominance in the knockout rounds.

Bayern will meet domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund in the final, and with a win would clinch their fifth European Cup/Champions League title, tied for third all-time with Liverpool.

Below is a recap of Bayern's run to this season's Champions League final, starting from the beginning.

 

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Group stage

Bayern qualified for this season's Champions League by finishing second behind Dortmund last term in the Bundesliga. At the Champions League draw, Bayern entered Group F with Valencia, BATE Borisov and Lille.

Despite receiving a favorable draw, Bayern experienced a hiccup along the way, losing 3-1 at minnows BATE on Matchday 2. But the Bavarians recovered with back-to-back wins over Lille, including a 6-1 demolition at the Allianz Arena in which Claudio Pizarro scored a hat-trick.

Bayern finished atop the group with 13 points, the same as Valencia but ahead of the Spaniards on goal differential.

 

(Photo credit: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Scare at the Allianz

Bayern received a second scare in the Round of 16 against Arsenal. After dominating the Gunners 3-1 in the first leg in London, Bayern entered the second leg without influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and nearly crashed out of the competition.

Arsenal scored early and completed a 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena, leveling the tie at 3-3 on aggregate. Bayern advanced, however, on the away-goals rule.

"We managed to get off with a slap on our wrists," Heynckes told UEFA.com. We still haven't won anything. This was a timely reminder for us—that we have to continue working hard in order to achieve our goals."

 

(Photo credit: UEFA.com)

Outclassed Italians

Bayern's Champions League challenge gathered steam in the quarterfinals as Juventus were outclassed 4-0 on aggregate.

David Alaba scored in the first minute of the first leg, and Bayern cruised from there. Thomas Muller added another goal in the second half as the first leg ended 2-0 in Munich.

In the second leg, Mario Mandzukic and Pizarro scored in the second half to complete a 4-0 aggregate victory.

"Bayern are really strong, individually and collectively," said Juventus manager Antonio Conte (per UEFA.com), whose team later won the Serie A title. "They can do wonderful things and they fight for every ball. It's tough to play against them and we did everything we could."

 

(Photo credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Barca blown away

Bayern drew Barcelona in the semifinals, setting up a showdown with superstar Lionel Messi and the 2009 and 2011 winners. Bayern passed the test easily.

In the first leg at the Allianz Arena, Muller scored two goals and assisted on another as Bayern whipped Barca 4-0. Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez each scored once to give Bayern a big advantage for the return leg in Spain.

In that return leg, Messi did not play for Barcelona, and his team looked lost without him. Bayern dominated again, winning 3-0 with strikes from Muller, Robben and a Gerard Pique own goal. The victory clinched Bayern's third appearance in the final in the last four seasons.

The 7-0 aggregate scoreline was the heaviest ever recorded in a Champions League semifinal. The loss was Barca's first at home in the Champions League since 2009.

"I think it was clear that my team entered this game extremely focused," said Heynckes (per UEFA.com), who plans to retire at the end of the season. "We played great right from the start. There's no denying Barcelona are a different team without Messi. Even so, I'm sure no one expected us to win 7-0 on aggregate."

 

(Graphic courtesy of Favourit)

By the numbers

Bayern Munich have played 12 Champions League matches this season, winning nine, losing two and drawing one. The Germans have outscored opponents 29-10, including 11-0 over the last two rounds.

Muller is the team's leading scorer in the Champions League with eight goals. Pizarro has scored four times and Robben and Toni Kroos have scored three times. Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm have assisted four goals each, tied for most on the team (WhoScored?).

According to Squawka, Bayern have held 53 percent of all possessions in their Champions League matches while completing passes at an 85 percent rate.

The most important number now, though is one. Only one opponent—Borussia Dortmund—remains between Bayern and the Champions League title.

 

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