This article is part of a partnership with Grup 14, an organization dedicated to Futbol Club Barcelona and supporters around the world. The Pep Episodes is created by Alex Truica and originally published at Grup14.com.
Is it a final for him? For his legacy? A career-defining game, at least on his career at Bayern Munich? Not only will Pep Guardiola be measured by the outcome of the game against Juventus on Wednesday, his complete reign at Bayern will be. Surely he won’t see it that way, and rightly so. The problem is: the general public and German media will.
The easy 5:0 thrashing of Werder Bremen on the weekend was not even an appetizer, what matters is the clash against Juve. The Bundesliga is pretty much done after the goalless draw in Dortmund, now everybody is focussed on the outcome in the Champions League. Guardiola’s tenure will mainly be judged on the results in Europe’s upperclass.
Guardiola: “I accept the pressure”
“I know what is going to happen if we don’t win the competition. I accept the pressure and the role,” Guardiola said at the press conference on Tuesday ahead of the second leg against the Italian champions. The pressure is high – even if the result in the first leg (2:2) was a good one – but Guardiola can deal with it. “I’ve never been afraid of a Champions League game,” he said.
“Bayern has now arrived in these weeks in which one or two games could be enough to judge the work of an entire season”, noted Süddeutsche Zeitung spot on. One game is probably even enough to judge Guardiola’s whole time in Munich, since the media always compared him to his triple winning predecessor Jupp Heynckes. It started with the famous “Thiago or nothing”-quote and could end with a “triple or nothing” – or maybe let’s say “Champions League or not much”. The Bundesliga would simply not be enough. It has the be the trophy with the big ears.
“We are a team that plays attacking football”
But let’s face it: It has to happen a lot for Bayern to be kicked out in the round of the last 16. They’ve been impressively dominant in the first leg for 60 Minutes, and they usually are even more impressively dominant when playing at home. “We know how strong we are in the Allianz Arena,” captain Philipp Lahm said, adding they they will stick to their philosophy, even if a 0:0 or 1:1 would be enough to progress to the next round: “We are a team that plays attacking football, that wants to score goals.” Bayern’s boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said that Bayern “are not known for playing for a 0:0 at home. That’s not the style of Pep Guardiola.”
“We will try to play our game,” the Catalan manager announced, hence: to keep the ball and to attack, just like they did in Turin. Juventus, on the other hand, will stick to their style: sit deep, wait for counter-attacks and dead balls. “I admire the defensive strength of Juventus, even if I don’t like that way of playing,” Guardiola stated. “Italian sides never lose their head,” praised striker Robert Lewandowski, adding that “Juventus can wait for the one chance.”
One chance, one goal, a 0:1-loss – and Guardiola’s whole job in Munich would be more than under question. It would be considered as a failure for some people.
The Pep Episodes is a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich exclusively written for Grup14 by Alex Truica, a freelance sports journalist and editor. You can follow him on Twitter.