Bayern fans will have much to be thankful for after drawing the easiest group leaders in the second round of the UCL, when they face Italian underdogs Fiorentina...or what they think to be the easiest.
One might think that the Florence based club is fearful of the draw, after fellow compatriots Juventus were thrashed in their own backyard when they faced the Bavarian giants. The match ended in a disappointing 4-1 score line which highlighted Juventus's biggest European defeat at home in the history of the competition.
Bayern projected a solid performance, controlled the tempo of the match, dominated possession, and posed the largest threat on their opponent's target.
However, after their clash with Bayern, Juventus have lost 2 games in a row. A 3-1 away loss to Bari, and a 1-2 home loss against bottom of the Serie A table Catania, ensured Juve's persistent string of inconsistent performances under Ferrara's reign.
After the Catania match up, some might think that it was Juventus that was awfully terrible against Bayern, and not the fact that Bayern were extremely strong, after losing at home to Serie A's weakest team.
It's true that we can't deny the grand display shown by Bayern's squad in Stadio Olympico(Torino), but we can't say that Bayern have defeated any sturdy opponents in Van Gaal's spell till now.
An away win against Borussia Dortmund, 5th in the Bundesliga, alongside their win versus Juventus were their only victories against "tough" opponents.
Other than that, they tied Bayer Leverkusen and Shalke 04 at home, the 1rst and 2nd in the Bundesliga respectively, lost away to Hamburg SV 1-0, and lost home and away to French champions Bordeaux.
It seems that L.Van Gaal has discovered the formula of success, due to a change of formation, and finds his side unbeaten in the Bundesliga in 10 games, winning the last 4 of them.
Bayern are a very talented side offensively, with the likes of Olic and Robben who are by all means crafty players, and with M.Gomez upfront Bayern have an old fashioned target man. Supported by one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, Ribery is a world class player wanted by a multitude of clubs significantly Chelsea and Real Madrid, Bayern have one of the most goal threatening offensive forces in the world.
But Bayern are struggling defensively, with Demichelis performing poorly being the reason to why Bayern are facing problems in securing clean sheets. Badstuber is a good player who has bags of potential, but doesn’t cut it on the UCL's highest levels yet. Van Buyten is performing well, being quite the goal scorer himself, scoring 4 goals so far in the Bundesliga.
Lahm is a world class left back, who is being played at the right with him being the only man in that position, plays well but can do better if converted to his original position. The left back position has been of controversy, with Braafheid and Pranjic switching roles, Braafheid being an inconsistent performer, while Pranjic being good offensively but the same can't be said about his defensive skills.
La Viola can easily take advantage of Bayern's shaky defense, with the likes of the powerful Peruvian left winger J.Vargas who gave Liverpool and Lyon a hard time, Gilardino who is a great finisher of the ball, A.Mutu, who on his day can be as crafty and creative as Olic and Robben, and the promising S.Jovetic, who has the dribbling, close control and technical ability of a potential world class player.
I'm not saying that La Viola have a much better defense than Bayern's, who conceded 5 goals home and away against Debrecen, but that’s because the players became complacent after scoring more goals themselves. Nevertheless, in close match ups against Lyon and Liverpool, the defense was organized and steady, reminding the fans why they're Italians.
Truth be told that both sides are evenly matched, both talented offensively and a little shaky in the back. The team that will qualify is the side who misses less chances and scores more away goals.
I favor Fiorentina to qualify, them being the underdogs in this contest, and also considering them the "Italian Villareal" in the UCL.
In last year's encounter in the group stage, they tied 1-1 at Artemio Franchi, and Bayern won 3-0 at the Allianz Arena. Both match ups will give them some perspective to how things might turn out in February.
This collision will also be a decisive factor in attributing the 4th UCL spot to Germany if Bayern eliminates Fiorentina, or maintaining the 4th UCL spot to Italy if La Viola qualifies.
Hopefully we shall all witness an interesting fixture filled with all the enthusiasm, zest and passion the German and Italian football can offer to the world.
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