Viktoria Plzen vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned
On Tuesday night, Bayern Munich confirmed their spot in the preliminary knock-out stages of the Champions League with a 1-0 victory over Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic.
With the win came a tender degree of relief from fans, knowing that their side can now return to domestic duties with a sterner approach than previously held in the past few weeks. The timid victory over Plzen itself offers an unwelcome reminder to the manner in which Bayern have simply slipped into victories over the past few weeks.
Yet this campaign remains perfect for Pep Guardiola and his re-shuffled band of champions, and with Manchester City up next, the Catalonian coach can finally experiment with his back-up world stars and finely tune his assault on yet another European Cup.
Here's what we took from Tuesday's Champions League encounter between Bayern Munich and Viktoria Plzen.
Javi Martinez Dropped
Although it was half expected, considering the Spaniards rough ride back to fitness, Guardiola did turn a few heads by resorting back to captain Philipp Lahm in the centre of midfield.
Martinez did come on later in the game in place of Bastian Schweinsteiger to keep the pace in midfield at a pursuing speed, but has yet to truly cement his name in to the Pep Guardiola starting XI.
Philipp Lahm Back in Midfield
As previously mentioned, the German and Bavarian full-back was once again asked to perform the task of central defensive midfielder by Guardiola as Bayern set about taking apart Viktoria Plzen.
This also meant the return of Rafinha to the starting XI, but also indicated the coach's constant tinkering with his final and most suitable starting team. Although Lahm and Martinez are both excellent players in this position, it does the side no good having them both alternate each week.
Mario Mandzukic to the Rescue (again)
Sometimes you need a little bit of bad to do a lot of good. For Pep Guardiola, the concept of moving to a striker-less formation is one that is immovable on his list of priorities. Yet the one man who keeps saving his skin is none other than Mario Mandzukic—his main striker.
Just as the Croatian came on two weeks ago against Hertha Berlin and dragged his side from defeat, Mandzukic was brought on during a cold Czech night and once again bagged the winner for his side.
Bayern Simply Going Through the Motions
Although a simple draw would have done the job for Bayern, nobody quite expected such a low-scoring affair between the European champions and the minnow side from the Czech Republic.
Yet this is unfortunately the manner in which Bayern are winning games at the moment, by doing ever so little and ensuring that they keep the tanks full for trickier ties ahead. Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim and now Viktoria Plzen have all been vanquished in first gear. Now on to the next one.
Bayern Equal Barca's Champions League Record Win Streak
One interesting stat that did come from Tuesday night's win was of course the impressive feat that distinguishes Bayern as the only side, apart from Pep Guardiola's own Barcelona team, to reach nine consecutive wins in the Champions League.
With names such as Barcelona, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City among the list of sides that have given up against their cause, it is undoubtedly confirmed that this current side is one of the best teams in the tournament's history.
Qualification for the Last Sixteen Confirmed
With Bayern's win over Viktoria Plzen, the German club confirmed their place in the knock-out round of the Champions League as the first team to do so with a 100 percent record this season.
For the club and new coach Pep Guardiola, such a feat will go down as a staggering degree of success considering their resounding victories over CSKA Moscow in Munich and Manchester City away in Manchester.