Reviewing Bayern’s Champions League campaign
It was late on Tuesday, 1 November, around 23:30 in the bowels of the Allianz Arena when head coach Julian Nagelsmann took to the stage in the press room in front of the gathered journalists and smiled. It wasn’t a beaming smile but definitely a happy one that many could understand.
“It’s always nice when you win,” Nagelsmann said after a convincing 2-0 triumph over Inter Milan to round off the Champions League group stage. It was the sixth victory in as many games in a section consisting of Barcelona, Inter and Viktoria Plzen that had been referred to beforehand as the ‘group of death’.
It was the third time in history that Bayern had recorded a perfect group stage – a feat no other team has ever achieved in the Champions League. A haul of 18 points with 18 goals scored. And they only conceded twice, but not against Inter or Barca, but against Plzen in a period of the game where things were already pretty much wrapped up for FCB.
The team also set two impressive new records this season. They are now unbeaten in their last 34 group fixtures (W31, D3) and have scored in every single one of them. Bayern’s 13 straight wins in group games is also a new competition record.
Message to the competition
The Bavarians‘ first win over Barcelona also made them the only team ever to have opened a Champions League group stage with two victories in 14 separate campaigns.
The excellent performances in the Champions League were once again a message to the competition and a sign of the team’s ambitions this season.
However, everyone is aware after the experiences of the last two years that all that means very little going into the knockout stage, but there is strong confidence going into the last-16 clash with Paris Saint-Germain on 14 February and 8 March. “We want to take the momentum into the new year,” said Nagelsmann. “It was the first step but there needs to be many more.”
CEO Oliver Kahn also stressed: “We still have big things ahead of us.”
But it doesn’t hurt right now to look back on some great moments like the brilliant 3-0 win at the Camp Nou with goals from Sadio Mane, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Benjamin Pavard. A little festive treat for you.
Who remembers Serge Gnabry’s superb through ball with the outside of his boot into the path of Mane for the opener in Barcelona?
“I want to marry that pass,” said one Twitter user. Or the rap from Choupo at the post-match meal in the hotel that went viral? And who could forget the defensive efforts to shut out Robert Lewandowski in two games? It was clear that there was harmony within the team both on and off the pitch.
“If we play with that intensity, paired with our quality, then we have a chance,” said Hasan Salihamidzic in reference to a seventh European crown. Thomas Müller also added: “When we play well, every team will have problems against us.”
What also makes everyone particularly confident is games like the aforementioned clash with Inter. Nagelsmann had made five changes to his starting XI and also rotated during the game.
“We were very grown up, very commanding, also the players who came in. It’s always a good feeling when you know you can make changes and don’t lose any quality,” the coach stated.
Bayern don’t return to action until 20 January when they go to RB Leipzig for the resumption of the Bundesliga campaign.
They have until February to prepare for a mouth-watering Champions League clash with Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. We can’t wait.