Bayern Munich Should Win Champions League Group but Mustn't Overestimate Results

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2015

Bayern players celebrate advancing to the quarterfinal after the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Arsenal in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Bayern Munich could feel satisfied with having been drawn into an entirely manageable Champions League group on Thursday evening, with theirs (Group F) including Arsenal, Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb.

Pep Guardiola's side will be out-and-out favorites to win the group, which could be a cakewalk compared to last year's group stage, which included clashes with Manchester City and Roma, as well as a visit to frigid Moscow to take on CSKA.

There were tougher Pot 2 sides Bayern could have been drawn with, including Manchester City and United and Real and Atletico Madrid. Pot 3 might have seen Bayern take on Roma or Europa League champions Sevilla.

Pot 4 was perhaps always more clear-cut as not too bad for the Bundesliga champions, as they were barred from facing fellow German sides Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach. Dinamo Zagreb should be beatable for Guardiola and company.

Similarly, Bayern can feel satisfied to have been drawn with Arsenal, not the weakest of Pot 2 sides but certainly not one they should feel afraid of.

Arsene Wenger's men like to play openly and tend to leave themselves exposed against sides with more technical ability. Bayern will be able to play football against Arsenal, and they're generally a better team in possession, so they should win.

History is on the Bavarians' side, too, as they've knocked out the Gunners in three recent Champions League meetings.

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Politically, a visit to Greece should be interesting from Bayern's perspective. On the sporting side, Olympiakos will be much more worried about Bayern than Bayern about the Piraeus-based Super League champions.

The two sides have never met in any competition. Although Olympiakos finished just a point away from qualifying for the knockout rounds of last year's Champions League and reached the last-16 in the previous season, there were tougher draws for Bayern. At the very least, they won't likely have much to complain about the weather in Greece or the distance to travel.

Similarly, Zagreb is just an hour's flight from Munich, and Dinamo lack the pedigree even of Olympiakos. They've done well to make it this far but are candidates to finish well behind Bayern and perhaps in last place.

At the same time, performance in a relatively "easy" group should not be misinterpreted by Bayern. Last year, they blew out Roma with a 7-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico, yet that result may have given some false confidence moving into the knockout rounds. After the group stage comes the hardest matches, and Bayern had trouble away from home against Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto before their defeat to Barcelona in the semifinals.

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

The simple truth is that during the group stage, Bayern won't face any side among the favorites to win the Champions League.

It may mean fewer opportunities to accumulate bookings and more chances to pad statistics and earn greater prize money, but clubs in groups like A (which includes Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid) and D (which includes Manchester City and last year's runners-up Juventus) will have some bigger tests on their plate. Those who progress may have a better understanding than Bayern of where they are among Europe's elite.

Bayern are fortunate enough to have a trainer who takes every match seriously, and their pedigree in Europe should see them avoid being caught off guard. They'll reach the knockout rounds, likely after winning their group.

There are pros and cons to the ease of the path Bayern can take en route to the knockout rounds, but in any case, the biggest tests will come if and when Guardiola and company reach the latter rounds of Europe's most elite club football tournament.