Pep Guardiola and the Semi-Finals: Can Bayern win the Champions League?

Can Bayern Munich win the Champions League? And why is it a huge deal for Pep Guardiola if they do?

Well, it’s fairly obvious that to win the Champions League is something momentous, particularly if you do it with more than one club, but in recent years Guardiola has failed to pass the semi-final stage, getting beaten quite convincingly the past three times his teams have been involved.

Guardiola is famed for his tiki-taka style that has slowly gone out of fashion as teams have adapted to its tactics and so it has become time for Guardiola to adapt as well.


Success from Messi’s talent

It was clear to see last year that a lot of Guardiola’s success actually came from Messi as opposed to his tactics and brilliant managerial decisions.

Ultimately, a team with Messi in it can win any game and Messi came back to haunt him when he scored twice in a 3-0 win in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich.

So every top manager has been tasked with the problem of de-throwning Barcelona, a task that is far easier said than done. Currently, everyone has been helped by the injury to Messi but he should be back before the really important games start arriving.

Bayern Munich may still be the dominant force in German football but they are not quite the dominant force in world football, not only that but before Guardiola arrived, they arguably were.

Since then, they have lost several players such as Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger plus Robben and Ribery seem to be continuously hampered by injury.


Important time for Guardiola and his key players

It is an important time for Guardiola because his status is definitely in jeopardy if he fails to show he can adapt. Tiki-taka was already on its way in when he became Barcelona manager an was actually built a youth level, he eventually inherited the best team in the world and perhaps didn’t create it himself. It’s time for him to prove he was a deciding factor.

So how does he do that?

He seems to be gently moving away from his preferred style to play to a slightly quicker and more direct brand of football, just as Barcelona have done. He has made a few signings that may just indicate a keen eye for what he needs.

Vidal and Douglas Costa being the main two. Vidal is a far more dogged player than those who went before him at Bayern Munich. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as I think Bastian Schweinsteiger is one of the best players in the world of breaking up play and then dictating tempo in a game. However, Vidal gives a certain steeliness and speed to the team that maybe wasn’t there before.

Then there is Douglas Costa, a diamond from the rough. Many teams around Europe were excited about him but he hadn’t yet really lit up the leagues and was seen as a bit of a risk for Guardiola.

However, he has proved to be a truly great signing so far this season. His pace and sheer determination are maybe a symbol of a grittier Guardiola team.

Right now they are in very good form with Lewandowski particularly benefiting. I think the introduction of Mario Gotze as a striker has really helped both of them to find their best form and for Bayern Munich to become even more of a threat.

Alcantara looks like he is developing into one of the world’s best and there is still plenty of experience in the team.


A past predicament

A problem they have had in the past is that they win the league so early that they go into Champions League semi-finals having lost their last three games using the reserves. Momentum is important and if the same happens this year round, it will be interesting to see whether Guardiola makes the same mistakes.

The final thing is to mould his tactics around his opponent, it was obvious that he went to match Barcelona last year player for player which most football fans will tell you wasn’t really possible.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar are simply the three best players in the world (alongside Ronaldo) and that has to be respected. It doesn’t make them unstoppable.

Right now Bayern Munich are looking better than ever but we have seen them dominate before, as the season progresses the games will get more and more important and we will really start to see whether Pep Guardiola has what it takes to take a team, who aren’t the best, to the very top.


This piece was first published at the excellent The Players Only Club here

Written by Jonny Troy

Follow Jonny on Twitter @Jonny_Troy

Check out his excellent football blog, where this piece was originally published: The Players Only Club

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