UCL Magazine - Nagelsmann on his vision for the futureSep 30
Bayern Munich on the brink of the greatest Champions League season of all time
The German champions have brushed aside some of Europe’s most decorated clubs with impunity in an astonishing display of ruthlessness. Can they beat Paris Saint-Germain and complete an all-time great season?
The German champions have been relentless despite a change of manager in December and an impromptu hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic in the new year.
They have won every game in the competition so far this season and the Lyon victory was their tenth straight Champions League win – equalling the record set by Real Madrid in 2015 and Bayern themselves in 2013.
The records keep on tumbling in a truly remarkable season and there’s a convincing argument that Bayern are playing the greatest Champions League campaign we’ve ever seen.
Hansi Flick’s side have scored 42 goals in the Champions League this season – only Barcelona in 1999/00 have netted more in a single campaign (45).
The record is within reach for Bayern and the feat is even more remarkable considering second legs were scrapped for the conclusion to this season’s tournament, meaning they have played fewer games than Barcelona.
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Bayern owe a huge debt of gratitude to Robert Lewandowski, who has enjoyed the best season of his career.
The Pole has scored 55 goals in 46 games and became only the second player in the history of the Champions League to net 15 goals in a single campaign when he added Bayern’s third goal against Lyon.
He has also scored in nine consecutive Champions League games and (alongside Serge Gnabry) is looking to become the fifth player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in one season, after Diego Milito in 2010.
Alongside Gnabry, Thomas Muller and company, the 31-year-old, described as “the best number nine on the planet” by BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand, has fired his side to glorious new heights.
The forward’s statistics make ominous reading for Thomas Tuchel and Paris Saint-Germain but Bayern are a ruthless winning machine who possess world-class quality all over the pitch.
They are on the longest unbeaten run across Europe’s top five leagues (P29 W28 D1 L0), scoring 97 goals (3.4 per game) and winning each of their past 20. They have also already won two trophies this season, scoring 100 goals to claim their 30th Bundesliga title before lifting the German Cup.
Their domestic form continued in Europe and Bayern lead the way in several key metrics. They’ve scored the most goals this season (42), 17 more than Sunday’s opponents PSG, they average nearly two more goals per game any other team and they sit top of the expected goals (xG) tables.
What’s more, they boast the best ever goals-per-game ratio in a single Champions League season (4.2), over a goal per game more than second-placed Real Madrid, who scored 3.15 goals per game in the 2013/14 season.
Even if Bayern do not score against PSG, they’ll still be the most potent attacking force the competition has ever seen.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Lyon, BT Sport’s Owen Hargreaves sung the praises of Bayern’s all-action style of play under Flick and struggled to pinpoint a single fallibility.
“The football that they play is fabulous, everything about it,” he said.
“The one thing [Flick] demands from his players is intensity. This Bayern team are relentless. They win the ball so high up the pitch that one or two touches and the ball is in the back of the net.
“They’re brilliant out of possession, unbelievable in possession. They almost don’t have a weakness.”
The Champions League has been graced by some of the greatest ever club sides to play the game.
Take the majestic Barcelona sides of 2008/09 and 2010/11 who brought ‘tiki-taka’ to the mainstream under Pep Guardiola, for example. Or Real Madrid’s serial winners who claimed four titles in five years from 2013 to 2018 thanks in no small part to the perpetually brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bayern have had generational teams of their own - the 2001 and 2013 winners to name two - but the 2020 version feels different.
They are a complete side. A hugely experienced centre-half duo of Jerome Boateng and David Alaba are flanked by elite utility man Joshua Kimmich and the irrepressible Alphonso Davies.
The metronomic Thiago Alcantara is the bridge between midfield and an attacking force featuring Lewandowski, Gnabry, Muller and Ivan Perisic.
The inspirational rise of Canadian full-back Davies is emblematic of Bayern’s rebirth. The prodigious 19-year-old, who sought refuge in Canada from Liberia’s bloody civil war in his youth, has enjoyed a stunning rise since making his debut.
“Everyone is happy and playing well. We are happy to make it to the final. Paris Saint-Germain is a good team, right now we celebrate a bit then we focus on the next game,” he said after Bayern beat Lyon.
“It will be a good game, there will be goals in that game. This is what you dream about as a footballer, playing with the best and against the best in Europe.
“It is a dream come true. Playing in the Champions League and getting to the final is everything you could ask for.”
Bayern are on the brink of the greatest Champions League season of all time but PSG, in search of redemption in a competition in which they have repeatedly fallen flat, stand in their way.
The French champions boast arguably the finest forward line in world football in Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi, and Tuchel’s charges will feel it’s high time to banish painful memories of Champions Leagues past and conquer Europe at last.
PSG will be a match for Bayern, who have brushed aside some of Europe’s most decorated clubs with such impunity in a Champions League tournament unlike anything that has come before.
If another display of dominance sees them lift a sixth European trophy in Lisbon, it will be difficult to argue that this isn’t the greatest Champions League campaign we’ve ever seen from one side.
Watch the Champions League final between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich from 7pm on BT Sport 1 HD, Ultimate and online.