Why Bayern Munich Are Home and Hosed in the Champions League

Stefan BienkowskiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger watches his team mates during the Champions League group D soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Viktoria Plzen in Munich, southern Germany, Wednesday, Oct.  23, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

With the return of the Bundesliga all but a few days away, such a time now means that February and the return of the Champions League is only just around the corner. 

Bayern's first potential road block on February 18 are English side Arsenal, as they face Arsene Wenger's side in a last-16 encounter identical to that of last year's competition. Yet, as many remember the two-legged affair as a tight contest, following Arsenal's surprise win in Munich, the truth is that Bayern were always going to go through. 

This season things have changed. Bayern have undoubtedly gotten stronger over the summer, but so too have Arsenal with the likes of Mezut Ozil now proposing a tricky affair for Guardiola's side. The Bavarians may have had an easy run in the group stages, but this knock-out tie looks anything but one-sided. 

Yet when we put Arsenal to one side for a few moments and look throughout the rest of Europe's premier competition, things do look considerably brighter for the current continental champions. 

For a start, many of the favourites for the competition are sides that Bayern have beaten in the past. 

Barcelona and Manchester City propose what may well be the most mouth-watering tie throughout the round, with both sides bulging with talent and desperate for a European cup, yet it is Bayern alone who have put both clubs to the sword within the last year, whenever push came to shove.

If Bayern were to overcome Arsenal, the prospect of playing either Barcelona or Manchester City may not be the worst available. Yes, City have stormed through the Premier League this season and Barcelona are still capable of beating any side on their day, yet such opponents offer tactics and potential tricks that the German champions have seen before, and will be well prepared for. 

Equally, when we look at some of the more one-sided ties throughout the round, very little stands out as potential banana peels on Bayern's race to the final. 

Dortmund will take on a tricky Zenit St Petersburg side and likely overcome them over the course of the two legs, yet we haven't seen a Dortmund side beat Bayern in a competitive match in well over a year, and as we can see from the Bundesliga table, that doesn't look like changing anytime soon.

Similarly, Manchester United and Athletico Madrid take on Olympiakos and AC Milan respectively, with the Spanish side flying high in La Liga at the moment and United's own European form offering some welcome respite from the troubles at home. Yet despite being considered favourites for each tie, neither side looks willing to, or even able to, offer too much in terms of a genuine push to Bayern's claim on the trophy. 

Where Bayern may find trouble is with the likes of PSG, Chelsea and Real Madrid

The Spanish side currently sit one point from the top of their domestic league and under Carlo Ancelotti they look ever so different from the team that allowed Robert Lewandowski to pull them apart in last season's semi-finals against Dortmund. In Madrid, Bayern could face a side that can match them man for man, with a coach as well versed in the Champions League as Guardiola. 

Is Jose Mourinho Pep Guardiola's greatest adversary?
Is Jose Mourinho Pep Guardiola's greatest adversary?Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Then there is Chelsea. A club now looking more and more like Jose Mourinho's own side of old, and a side that have already troubled Bayern this season. Last summer's European Super Cup may have gone down as growing pains as Guardiola found his feet in Munich, yet Mourinho does have a knack for getting under the Catalonian's nails, and now he has a squad that can help him take advantage of that. 

PSG then round up the last of the three sides who could potentially trip Bayern up this season. Perhaps not as well versed in the Champions League as the other two contenders or indeed Bayern, but with players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva performing as admirably as they are now, the Parisians are more than capable of beating anyone to get to the final this year. 

Yet such opponents are all one can expect to face when challenging for European football's greatest prize, and despite these three sides all looking unbeatable at the moment, we would still have to put Bayern down as favourites against all three ahead of any tie. 

For even though the fate of one team changes in an instant within this beautiful game, it's all but unanimous to suggest that Bayern are the best in Europe at the moment and are only getting stronger. With Guardiola at the helm, the Bavarian giants are in an excellent position to not only challenge with one of the best coaches surrounded by some of the best players in the world, but go on and win it once again.