Finally Pep: FC Bayern face Manchester City
The Champions League quarter-final and semi-final pairings were drawn on Friday. In the quarter-finals, FC Bayern will meet their Cityzens in a competitive match for the first time since Pep Guardiola joined FC Bayern. The winner is set to face the victor of Real Madrid v. Chelsea in the semi-finals.
The draw: Chelsea v. Real and City v. Bayern
The quarter-finals at a glance:
SL Benfica – Inter Milan
Manchester City – Bayern München
Real Madrid – Chelsea FC
AC Milan – SSC Napoli
Meet FC Bayern’s opponents: Manchester City
Today’s “Sheikh Club” Manchester City has been one of England’s most traditional clubs. The Cityzens won the English FA Cup as early as 1904. They became English champions for the first time in 1937 and again in 1968. In 1970, they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup for the first and only time, when they beat Górnik Zabrze in the final.
After that, things went quiet around the Sky Blues for almost 40 years. This was going to change in 2008, when the Abu Dhabi United Group took over the club. Today, Manchester City is the nucleus of the City Football Group, which besides Manchester City includes ten other professional football teams.
Since the takeover, City have invested heavily in team and infrastructure and have won the English championship six times. Four of these titles were won in the last six years under long-time coach Pep Guardiola.
Yet the one big title City had been longing for more than anything else has remained uncannily elusive. While Manchester City suffered surprise early defeats at the hands of AS Monaco or Olympique Lyon in the Champions League in the first years under Pep, they came very close to winning the title in the last two years. In 2021, they lost in the final to Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea. In 2022, they narrowly lost out to eventual winners Real Madrid in the semi-finals after extra time. This year perhaps more than ever the team seems ready for the big one.
Wonder kid striker Erling Haaland, who was brought in from Dortmund for €60 million before this season, is expected to help. Although Haaland has been scoring at a ridiculous rate for City, opinions differ as to how much positive impact he’s had has on the statics of the Sky Blues’ game.
Fun Fact: In seven duels with BVB against FC Bayern, Haaland scored five times, but in all seven games the winner ended up being FC Bayern.
Manchester City’s record against FC Bayern is even. In six meetings so far, all from 2011 to 2014 in the group stage of the Champions League, both teams have three victories. In four of the matches, FC Bayern was coached by Pep Guardiola.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann has met Pep Guardiola and Manchester City twice so far, both times in the 2018 Champions League group stage. His Hoffenheim side lost 2-1 in both matches.
Fantastically difficult draw for FC Bayern
Objectively speaking, Manchester City is the strongest team in the competition: top favourite with the bookmakers, number one on FiveThirtyEights Soccer Power Index, number one on Clubelo. From that point of view, Bayern are facing a tough draw. The fact that Real Madrid or Chelsea would be next up in the semi-finals makes the road to the final even tougher.
Especially as this year’s knockout phase is not as tightly packed with super teams as some of the previous years’. The current league leaders from England, Spain and France are no longer present. Dortmund? Liverpool? Atlético? Juve? Eliminated. In addition, most of the remaining big guns, Real, Bayern and Chelsea, do not consistently give the impression that they are currently playing at the maximum of their potential (the SPI and Elo values of these clubs confirm this impression).
In other words, there is a path to the final this year for Napoli for example that leads through Frankfurt, Milan and Benfica. Or via Bruges, Inter and Napoli for Benfica, if they were to make it. Relatively easy tournament paths, nominally.
It is the basic philosophical question before every draw: Do you want a relatively easier opponent or a top opponent? Would you rather have a 25% chance of reaching the final and two highlight ties on the way, or would you rather have a 50% chance of reaching the final and two rather unspectacular opponents along the way, albeit with a slight risk of stumbling over either of them?
The myth that you have to beat all comers anyway if you want to win the title is just that: a myth. Of course, there are those years in which the eventual winner eliminates only strong opponents on the way to the title. Conversely, there are always the Villarreals and Co. against whom the top clubs are surprisingly eliminated. All of this is anecdotal evidence, no more.
And yet the philosophical question of the favourite opponent is only of limited relevance in this draw. It has been seven years since Pep Guardiola left FC Bayern, where he left such a lasting impression. Guardiola’s new team and FC Bayern have played in the Champions League every year for seven years. In the seven group stages and six knockout rounds so far, there has never been a direct clash. The duel is overdue.
We can look forward to two games of footballing excellence. Two games in which nuances could (and probably will) ultimately decide who prevails; to two coaches who have probably started going through match plans and tactical adjustments in their heads the very moment the draw was made.
After the round of 16 stretched over five weeks, the pace is going to pick up in the spring. The quarter-final first leg will take place in Manchester on Tuesday, 11 April 2023. Eight days later on 19 April, FC Bayern is playing host to Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena for the second leg. The semi-finals will start on 9 May and the final on 10 June.
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Thanks for the sum up Georg, indeed this is a fantastic matchup and has been due for a while. The feeling, the excitement, the anticipation and also the nervousness from the moment of the draw, to me, is very similar to the matchups a few years ago, Pep’s Bayern vs Enrique’s Barca, and Pep’s Bayern vs Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. In the sense that 2 high performing team, 2 (of the) biggest candidates for that tournament, with either a connection (Pep) or a great matchup in terms of style (Bayern vs Atletico). Both times we were on the losing side I hope this time it will be a good ending for Bayern. I can’t wait for the matches.
For the philosophical question, I almost always prefer a “weak” draw (on paper) that a strong one, and definitely not the strongest opponent (on paper) this early. Contrary to most of the fans I know, the actual trophy (the Champions League Cup) itself to me is not more important than then journey where I can enjoy, and whose the most important thing is to get deep every time. I hate nothing more than Bayern being eliminated before the semifinal, and on the other hands I think I would trade 1 Champions League win (and say, 2 1/16 or QF) with a 3 consecutive semi-final appearances). You can call me crazy.
On the other hand I’m completely dominated today by the sudden sacking of Nagelsmann. It’s a shock! I know him and his Bayern have been rather underwhelming the majority of times (results wise-Bundesliga, and also style-wise) but the board seem to back him a lot, the team is still alive in all competition (with flawless results in the Champions League, isn’t it the most obsessed trophy to all of us?), the timing is very risky too.
What do you at Miasanrot make of this sacking I’m very curious to hear some informed opinions. I’m sure Thomas Tuchel is a very good coach and I trust he will do well at Bayern, but still, this season is at risk, and I can’t stop feeling bad about losing Nagelsmann, feeling bad for him.
Hi Hien! I am completely with you in terms of this being a long awaited/fated matchup. This side of the “bracket” with Bayern/City/Real/Chelsea has left exciting matchups all the way to the final. Personally, I agree that I hate when the draws work this way. It feels wrong that probably the three biggest favorites left will play each other prior to the final at this point. Whether those three would have made it to the semifinal if the draws had worked out differently is of course debatable and far from certain, but this eliminates that possibility all together which seems wrong.
I think we’re all reeling from the Nagelsmann news. While there were faint rumblings, mostly from fan’s, this move really did come seemingly out of no where and at an extremely bizarre time. My working theory is that Bayern were looking at the coaching landscape and came to the conclusion that a) there was a reasonably high chance they would make a move regarding Nagelsmann before next season and b) their preferred, and maybe only choice, was available and very likely wouldn’t be if they waited.
There has been talk about the board wanting to “rescue” the season or that they were worried about not winning any of the three competitions they were in, which I think is probably true to a degree but honestly I’m not sure I see how this move increases the odds of Bayern winning anything this year.
With the vast majority of the team out on international duty, Tuchel is going to have 3 days before arguably the biggest BL matchup of the year. Another 2 days before the DFB Pokal Quarter Final matchup with Freiburg with another matchup against Freiburg 3 days after that and then Man City 2 days later. What is Tuchel going to actually be able to do with this squd in that time? IMO, nothing really. He can maybe slightly change the way they line up. He can make differnt personell decisions than Nagelsmann. But in terms of actually changing anything or really having any affect on the actual team in these matches, I genuinely can’t see how that is possible. I would actually go the opposite diretion and say that this move probably decreases the likelyhood that Bayern win anything this season.
In regards to Nagelsmann, I really wish I could say I was surprised (apart from the timing which I think is surprising to nearly everyone). The fanbase was clearly starting to grow restless with the performances and inconsistencies. The expectations are unrealistic always at FC Bayern and if this year didn’t at least end in a double, I think there is every chance Nagelsmann would have been gone after the season.
I don’t think that this is really fair to him in a lot of respects. There are a lot of reasons and extraneous factors that have led to the performance issues Bayern have had. A midseason WC has obviously had an inordinant affect on certain teams (which you can see throughout Europe with nearly all of the big clubs struggling in their respective leagues). The departure of Lewy and lack of replacement player is a massive factor that goes well beyond the coach. The continued struggles and inconsistencies of Sane and Gnabry which predate Nagelsmann and Mane’s struggles since returning from injury. Neuer’s injury and the subsequent drama (which he of course did play a hand in) but losing your captain midseason due to stupidity is certainly not his fault. The growing injury list, in part becaue of this ridiculous schedule this year due to the WC.
All of those factors are outside of the coaches realm of influence. They will not change because Tuchel is coming in. The problems Bayern had still remain. So for me, this is a move for next season and beyond. I think the Bayern brass were not thrilled with Nagelsmann’s personality and approach. I think they were not convinced that his future was long at Bayern. And I think they looked at the coaching landscape and panicked. If you want to really go down a rabbit hole, I think you can also look at this move and see it as them throwing in the towel on this season. I think you can easily look at it and think that those in charge at Bayern don’t really believe they can win this season, especially in the CL and that by making a move it will not have any affect on whether they win the BL or Pokal. To be honest, I think that’s at least partially true, though they would deny it emphatically. And it’s of course still possible that Bayern win a treble. They’re very much in every competition still. But they could also win nothing. Honestly, I don’t really believe that this move really changes the odds of either of those things happening significantly.