Although the likes of Thiago Alcantara have recently returned to full fitness, Bayern Munich’s Champions League hopes look bleak after two key players suffered injuries during their midweek cup clash with Borussia Dortmund.
What’s more, these injuries were very much in vain. Dortmund knocked already-crowned German champions Bayern out of the competition. The favourites failing to hit the back from the spot after a relatively late Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equaliser was enough to take the tie all the way. Even rogue goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could not strike true, leaving Bayern a tough Champions League semi-final as their only chance at more silverware.
As if the game against Barcelona wasn’t going to be tough already, Arjen Robben tore his calf muscles only 16 minutes in to his return from a previous injury and Robert Lewandowski could be joining him on the sidelines after breaking his nose and lower jaw. The Dutch speedster has scored 17 goals in just 21 games in the league this season, adding two more to this impressive tally in the Champions League. With Robben already being ruled out of the tie, the race is on to get Lewandowski fit. Losing both of them would be a huge blow, especially when considering the amount of goals they have scored this year.
Lewandowski finds himself in third place as the club’s top scorer in borth the Bundesliga and Champions League, with the aforementioned Robben and Thomas Muller leading the way respectively. However, the Pole is Bayern’s top scorer in all competitions this season, racking up 21 goals in 37 appearances. The race is on to manufacture a mask that will allow the Pole to take part.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE OR BUST
Winning the Bundesliga has become fairly trivial for Pep Guardiola’s side, especially with Dortmund’s domestic capitulation this year. The lack of competition and the ease at which they win most games often plays down the impressiveness of their consistent success.
It is through the Champions League Bayern look to prove their worth, with winning it seemingly the only acceptable outcome. However, should they not be able to call upon Lewandowski, and with Robben already ruled out, coming up against a Barcelona team full of confidence, and more importantly goals, means they are very much at risk of falling short of the ambitious target they set themselves.
With Franck Ribery also out, as he has been for a while, Bayern’s squad has been slowly chipped away. Thiago’s return and the strength in depth they have is but a small consolation for the huge names they could well be missing. When coming against some of the world’s best, Bayern would have liked to been able to call on their own to match them.
ATTACK IS THE BEST FORM OF DEFENCE
Well it would have been.
Containing Barcelona’s attacking trio was always going to be a nigh-on impossible task, however, with everyone fit, Bayern would have had a superb attacking unit of their own to counter it. The potential absence of their league’s top scorer and outright number one means fighting fire with fire is becoming less of a viable strategy, again making this tie even trickier than it first seemed.
Bayern will not lose faith in their ability to beat Barcelona, far from it, but this confidence will not stop them from praying their new look medical department can do a job in helping Lewandowski return for this season defining clash.
Should the Pole not be fit enough to take part, however, this semi-final could well be the final nail in what, on paper, would be deemed a disappointing season for the seemingly all-conquering German giants. Showing too, that even the deepest of squads can be crippled by injuries to the wrong people, at the wrong time.