Two words to describe Bayern Munich's group in the upcoming UEFA Champions league are: difficult and intriguing.
The German runners are drawn in Group A with Italian giants Juventus, French champions Girondins de Bordeaux, and Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa.
This, certainly is the group of death in this year's league.
While Bayern have often had the experience of dealing with top notch Italian teams in recent times—AC Milan, Juventus, Fiorentina, Internazionale—their encounters with Bordeaux and Maccabi Haifa will be well nigh interesting.
Coming to Bayern's principal opponents, Juventus, first. The Bianconeri troubled FCB the last time the two sides met in the Champions League. One remembers Alessandro Del Piero's last minute goal at the Olympic Stadion to break Bayern hearts. Juventus will pose a threat this time round too.
Italians traditionally close down their goal mouth on away trips and Bayern's current tactic of crosses won't work in their favour because Juventus possess sufficient height and physical presence in their defensive ranks. The aerial threat of Luca Toni, Miro Klose, and Mario Gomez would be neutralised by Cannavaro, Zebina, and Chiellini.
Upfront, Juventus will unleash Diego, Trezeguet, and Iaquinta. The former Bremen man had devastated Bayern when wearing the green kit. Trezeguet and Iaquinta could prove to be a handful for the currently leaky Bayern defence.
Hasan "Brazzo" Salihamidzic will lend tips to his side on how to handle the Bayern crowd. Brazzo is too good to be hated!
And of course there's Signor Allesandro. Del Piero has a habit of conquering German opponents through last ditch efforts: be it in white and black or in azure.
On a slightly dim note, the only team to conquer Bayern in the Champions League at the Allianz Arena is an Italian side: the Rossoneri. The Bianconeri would love to replicate the feat achieved by their fellow rivals.
Bayern could stop their illustrious rivals by using what they are good at: speed. Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Philip Lahm, Ivica Olic, and Bastian Schweinsteiger are all capable of mazy and speedy runs which opposition defenses hate. This could be Bayern's trump card!
FC Girondins de Bordeaux will hardly provide respite for the German giants.With seasoned Aregntine Diego Placente and french wunderkinder Yoann Gourcuff in their ranks, the french champions will prove to be a threat of the first order, as well.
Having won their last 16 competitive fixtures, Bordeaux boast of something which Bayern don't—form. Bayern had a worthy outing against French opponents, Lyon, last time round and should look to extract a point on their away trip this year as well.
Maccabi Haifa will prove to be journey into the unknown for Bayern.The Israeli opponents will be plucky competitors, make no mistake.A trip to Israel is never easy. All said and done though, Bayern would have to make the most of their two legs against Haifa.
Bayern's current Bundesliga form is anything but impressive.Often it has been proved by big clubs like Bayern, AC Milan, and Liverpool that domestic league and champions league are not comparable.
Robben coming into the side should lend more venom to Bayern's hitherto toothless aggression. But Louis Van Gaal needs to take a long hard look at his side and be at his tactical best in order to justify Bayern Munich's pot one status.
I won't predict the outcome of this group, at this stage. But, I have a nagging feeling that if Bayern are to progress further in the Champions League, they will have to do so at the cost of much stronger opponents because I see them as runners in this group.