3 bold predictions for Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League group stages
As the popular Christmas Carol says, it is the most beautiful time of the year, as soccer fans rejoice at the start of the Champions League. The biggest and the most prestigious club competition in the world has given us so many great memories in the last couple of years. One of these was the 2019/20 win for Bayern Munich over PSG in the final, giving them their fifth European title and the first one since the late Arjen Robben winner in 2013 versus Borussia Dortmund. Of course, Bayern are back in the competition, and here are three predictions on how the opening stage will go for them:
Robert Lewandowski will score at least 6 goals
While it seems like six goals is an easy feat for any world-class striker in Europe, it cannot be underestimated how hard it is to remain on the highest level of consistency and focus for 6 games. That is especially true if the club is going to have to travel a ton, and if there are hard games in between the Champions League clashes. Even Lewandowski, the man who broke 40 goals last season in Bundesliga, scored a measly three goals in 6 games for Bayern last year.
Regardless, he opened the Bundesliga campaign with five goals in three games, as he looks adamant to repeat his tally from last year. It is not only the amount of goals, but also the ease at which the Polish maestro scores the goals. He can score with both of his feet, and being 6 foot 1, he can also dominate defenders in the air.
It also has to be taken into consideration that Lewandowski will face lesser opponents this time around, as it is hard to imagine Dynamo Kyiv, Benfica or the broken Barcelona squads to be any sort of challenge for the star Bayern striker. After all, this is more-or-less the same Barcelona that was thrashed by Munich two years ago 8-2, while Kyiv and Benfica will definitely seek to capitalize on the misfortune of the Catalans, more than trying to get points against Bayern. Lewandowski, if he is focused and composed, should have a simple time breaking down the defenses.
Jamal Musiala and Josip Stanisic will have breakthrough campaigns
Bayern youngsters Musiala and Stanisic are clearly going to have an impact this season, as both featured multiple times in the squad already. Stanisic and Musiala played three games in the league, with the striker Musiala appearing on the score-sheet one game, as well. They are both fairly young, with the right-back Stanisic being 21 and Musiala just 18.
Musiala is a product of the Chelsea school of football, only transferring to Bayern in 2019, when he was 16. He made his debut for the first and second teams on the 20th and 3rd June of last year, respectively, and debuted in the Champions League on the 3rd of November of the same year. In the round of 16 against Lazio, Musiala was on the score-sheet in the rout of the Italian team, 4-1. His goal-scoring prowess and pace is constantly on display, and he will look to be the immediate successor of Lewandowski, once the Polish veteran retires or leaves Bayern.
On the other hand, Stanisic had a different path to get to Bayern. His young career was started in the other Munich team, former Bundesliga stalwart 1860 Munich, but he has been with Bayern since 2017. Overlooked for a while, the Croat-German was noticed by new coach Julian Nagelsmann during pre-season, and he remained the starter for the German champions. Of course, his play is conditional on the availability of Benjamin Pavard, as the Frenchman will be the first name for the right-back position when ready, but Stanisic can definitely use this time to really get stuck in the position.
Bayern Munich will not lose a single point in the group
This does not seem as that of a bold prediction, especially when considering that Bayern is miles ahead of all clubs in the group. However, just to understand how big of a feat this is, only seven teams managed to do this since the inception of this iteration of Champions League, in 1992/93 season. Milan in 1992, PSG in 1994, Spartak Moscow in 1995, Bayern Munich in 2002 and in 2019, and Real Madrid in 2011 and 2014 are the only teams that were able to achieve this honor.
However, there are real arguments to be made about Bayern becoming the only team that did this three times. If we look over the group that the Bavarians have, it is clear that there is not a lot of quality. Like it was mentioned during the first prediction made, it still requires a lot of focus and consistency to make sure the squad is up for every game, but the rest of the group still feels underwhelming.
Benfica does have a respectable roster, to which they added the likes of Roman Yaremchuk who impressed for Ukraine at Euro 2020. Still, it is hard to believe that they will be able to contain Lewandowski with an aging Jan Vertonghen holding the line in the defense. Also, Benfica had to go through two qualifying rounds to reach the group stage, as they ended a poor season domestically, without any trophies one and finishing only third in the league.
Dynamo Kyiv is an interesting team, and Ukrainian teams like Dynamo and Shakhtar Donetsk were able to provide some absolutely amazing moments in the past couple of seasons. Still, even with all that being true, a squad of mostly domestic players, without any true world-quality can only hope to squeeze out a few points and possibly surprise the likes of Benfica or Barcelona.
Barcelona will be the toughest challenge, naturally. The Catalan club is one with a lot of history, and a team that will still surprise many, even after losing one of the best players in the world and certainly the best to ever wear the Barca jersey. However, it is difficult to see how this Barcelona squad will handle a powerhouse like Bayern. The biggest issue will be containing Lewandowski, since their defense is headlined by an aging Gerard Pique, and joined by the still inexperienced Eric Garcia, who will need major game-time to adjust, and the unreliable Clement Lenglet.
Bayern Munich, for the first time in a while, is not one of the biggest favorites. Many neutrals prefer Manchester City, Chelsea or PSG. However, as football history states, the German teams should never be counted out.