Sunday 23 July 2017

Bayern's poor away record a concern for Guardiola

Guardiola is now in his last two months in Bavaria, where he has been desperate to win the Champions League that would make his tenure there worthwhile. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
Guardiola is now in his last two months in Bavaria, where he has been desperate to win the Champions League that would make his tenure there worthwhile. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Jamie Holland

The most obvious beneficiary in the event of Barcelona being eliminated from the Champions League wobble ought to be Guardiola's Bayern Munich.

Guardiola is now in his last two months in Bavaria, where he has been desperate to win the Champions League that would make his tenure there worthwhile.

Bayern have spent much of their time under Guardiola looking like the best team in Europe but twice they have been to the semi-finals of this competition and both times they were routed: by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2014 and Lionel Messi in 2015.

For all their technical skill and modern style, Bayern have never looked as secure in European knock-out games as they ought to. It took a remarkable turnaround for them to beat Juventus and tonight they go to Benfica needing to build on the 1-0 margin they won at the Allianz Arena.

Their record in Champions League knockout away legs is not good: in three seasons the only team they have beaten in such a fixture was Arsenal, back in February 2014.

Slip-ups

If they can just get through tonight, they could take advantage of any Barca slip-up.

Therefore, the German giants know that they cannot afford be complacent about the state of play; they would have preferred to bring a bigger lead from the initial meeting at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern had looked set to cruise into the last four when Arturo Vidal's second-minute strike put them ahead last week.

However, Benfica showed their battling qualities to restrict Guardiola's side to just that one goal and, buoyed by the achievement of compatriots Porto in beating Bayern 3-1 in Portugal last season, will be confident of pulling off a shock by reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1990.

A draw would do for Guardiola's men, while Benfica will be forced to come out of their defensive shell to attack them, which could play into the German club's hands.

"If we get a goal, then there's a big chance that we will go through," said captain Philipp Lahm.

Benfica's hopes could be dented by the absence of two of their attacking talents.

Jonas, who has scored 18 goals in 18 appearances this season, will definitely miss out through suspension, and Nico Gaitan is a doubt with a muscular problem.

Interested suitors will be closely watching the impact of highly rated Brazilian teenager Renato Sanches, a target for both Arsenal and Manchester United.

Benfica v Bayern,Live, BT Sport 2, 7.45

Irish Independent

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