8 Reasons Why Bayern Munich Will Win the Champions League This Season
Bayern Munich return to Champions League action in less than one week's time when they travel to Kiev, Ukraine, to face off against Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 of the European competition.
Although the current German champions sit comfortably at the top of the Bundesliga, coach Pep Guardiola will know that any success he brings back to Munich in May will be determined by his team's performances in this competition.
Bayern and Guardiola will have a strong stab at the Champions League this season, and here's eight reasons why they may just win it.
1. A Fully Fit Franck Ribery
Although Bayern have looked outstanding at times this season, the Bavarian giants will never quite look like their all-conquering selves without Franck Ribery on their left wing.
The French international is undoubtedly one of the best players to have ever worn the Bayern jersey and is quite simply one of Guardiola's greatest assets.
The 31-year-old midfielder has missed much of this season but should be back and raring to go by the time Shakhtar rolls around this month. Bayern have an extra gear in store for Europe, and it will be coming in the form of this talented Frenchman.
2. Robert Lewandowski's Goalscoring Record
This tally rounds out to a healthy goal or assist every 96.1 minutes, meaning that the Polish striker is scoring or assisting in nearly every game he takes part in during the continental campaigns.
Compare this to similar stats in the Bundesliga, which show the striker scoring or assisting every 98.1 minutes, and it suggests Lewandowski is in fact more prolific in Europe than he is in the slightly easier domestic league.
As we've seen during his time at Dortmund, this towering striker truly knows his way around some of Europe's best teams and will undoubtedly be a key figure in any success Bayern have in the competition this season.
3. Mehdi Benatia Will Get His Chance
Bayern and Guardiola currently have a problem with their defence—it simply doesn't seem to work against good counter-attacking sides. We've seen this at times throughout the Bundesliga campaign with the likes of Wolfsburg and Dortmund posing very real threats to Bayern's high line.
Yet, for some reason, the Catalonian coach has kept his only real solution to this problem—a partnership between Mehdi Benatia and Jerome Boateng—for the European fixtures and, as such, has looked a lot stronger in Europe than at home.
With Benatia in the side alongside Boateng, we should see a Bayern team that can do their absolute worst while also defending against counter-attacks properly.
4. Guardiola Has Learned from His Mistakes
The key to Bayern's success in the Champions League this season will undoubtedly be Guardiola's ability to properly evaluate how to tackle the other big teams in the competition.
The German giants fed at the hand of Real Madrid last season in a two-legged affair that the Bayern coach famously admits to getting wrong in the book Pep Confidential.
In the book, the Bayern coach admits to overlooking his natural instincts and playing a more attacking game against Madrid at the request of his players, which ultimately played directly into the Spanish side's hands.
Guardiola won't allow this to happen again and will undoubtedly be much more cunning with his tactics this year.
5. Bayern Have Strengthened Since Last Season
The Munich-based side were undoubtedly one of the best teams on the planet last season, yet due to some hard work in the summer transfer window, Guardiola was able to upgrade his already intimidating side.
Bayern can now rely upon Lewandowski upfront—a strong upgrade on Mario Mandzukic—Xabi Alonso in place of Toni Kroos, as well as added depth in the form of some fantastic talents, such as Juan Bernat, Sebastian Rode and Pepe Reina.
This team have strengthened since their elimination last season and look even tougher than before.
6. A Lack of Competition
Maybe it's down to the manner in which finances have erected a select few superrich clubs over the past decade or it is in fact simply through a prolonged absence of form, but one way or another, there are few teams capable of winning this season's Champions League.
Bayern look likely to be the only real challengers from Germany, while England's top division has only really produced one title contender in Chelsea this season. Add to that the three Spanish clubs and you have five teams from the whole competition that could win it.
Baring in mind that Bayern will only play three of those clubs, at the very most, and it shows how little truly stands between the Bavarian club and a shot at the title.
7. Bayern Have Experience Reaching Finals
Other than Manchester United and Barcelona, no team in European football has been to as many Champions League finals in the past 10 years as Bayern.
The trio totals three appearances, but aside from United and Barca, the rest of Europe looks in envy at this squad's experience at reaching the final hurdle of the European competition.
As such, Guardiola's team have a slight advantage when it comes to facing other big clubs in the competition. The likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm have been here before and will undoubtedly know exactly how to lift the trophy again.
8. No Distractions
Last but certainly not least is the very real belief that Bayern have a coherent advantage over the likes of their counterparts in England, Spain and France because they'll undoubtedly have little to worry about at home by the time the crunch games come around in the Champions League.
Although Bayern have stumbled of late against the likes of Wolfsburg and Schalke, Guardiola's side are still comfortable at the top of the table. Unless we see a truly remarkable fall in form, the current German champions should wrap up another league title with time to spare.
That will give them plenty of time and fresh legs for the campaign in Europe.