Saturday 17 November 2018

Bayern will have to improve to conquer Europe, warns Robben

Robben: Semi-final talk premature. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
Robben: Semi-final talk premature. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Ed Malyon

Bayern Munich shouldn't need to be at their best to complete their return to the Champions League final four but they could do with laying down a marker, even if it's just to convince themselves that they can win the whole thing.

The Bavarian giants were pretty ordinary in Seville last week but came from behind to comprehensively take control of this quarter-final tie with a 2-1 victory.

It was a good result, rather than a performance, at a time when Bayern's objectives this season are narrowing. Having formalised another Bundesliga title last weekend, their initial objective for tonight's second leg at the Allianz Arena is simply to secure a berth in the semi-finals.

Last season's elimination at the hands of eventual winners Real Madrid deprived them of a spot in the final four for the first time in five years.

Bayern are virtual ever-presents at European football's top table but they are yet to really look up to that standard this season.

That trudging performance in Seville improved when Arturo Vidal - up to that point a complete statue - was taken off with an knee injury and James Rodriguez was introduced.

Vidal has been ruled out of tonight's game and Bayern must also plan without versatile full-back David Alaba.

Bayern could easily have been two or three goals behind at the Sanchez Pizjuan before Pablo Sarabia eventually swept home Sevilla's goal.

Had it not been for a number of last-ditch interventions - most notably Mats Hummels' sliding block to open the second half - the Spaniards might have been taking a handy lead to Germany.

Instead, a freak own-goal and a second-half header flipped the quarter-final on its head.

"There is already a lot of talk about the semi-final but let us first play a great game and advance. Sevilla have shown what they can do away from home," said Arjen Robben. "If we want to win the Champions League then we will have to improve."

The admission that Bayern must improve is crucial at a time when the club's plans are in flux.

Jupp Heynckes took over from Carlo Ancelotti on an interim basis earlier this season and was expected to hand over the reins to Julian Nagelsmann.

But then Hoffenheim's season went a little south and Bayern were revealed to have held talks with Thomas Tuchel, a man who impressed them after exiting Dortmund under a bit of a cloud.

Tuchel, however, is now being reported as Paris Saint-Germain's new coach and thus things have got a little cloudy.

A good performance and progression to the semis will at least clear the picture for the rest of this campaign. (© Independent News Service)

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