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UPHILL TASK

Bayern Munich must set recent turbulence aside as they target unlikely Champions League comeback against Man City

Bayern Munich must set recent turbulence aside as they target unlikely Champions League comeback against Man City
Dayot Upamecano of Bayern Munich and Erling Haaland of Manchester City battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first-leg match at Etihad Stadium in Manchester on 11 April 2023. (Photo: Richard Callis / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

German side Bayern Munich are three goals behind Manchester City heading into the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal clash, scheduled for Wednesday. It will be a Sisyphean task trying to overturn the deficit.

It’s been far from an ideal season for German giants Bayern Munich. It’s been an even more challenging 2023 for the Bavarians.

From ruthlessly firing their young manager, Julian Nagelsmann, two years after they lured him away from Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig, to being bundled out of the German Cup as early as the quarterfinals.

Things came to a head when Bayern were bamboozled 3-0 by Manchester City in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League quarterfinal at the Etihad. Following that humbling, Bayern forwards Sadio Mané and Leroy Sané (who had been at loggerheads towards the end of the 90 minutes) reportedly clashed in the dressing room after the final whistle.

It resulted in the latter copping a bruise on his mouth, which was visible for all to see during the Bavarians’ most recent outing – a 1-1 draw against Hoffenheim. As for Senegalese sensation Mané, he was handed a hefty fine and a one-match suspension for his actions.

The club has since said the two have buried the hatchet and the altercation is a thing of the past.

Leroy Sané of FC Bayern Munich controls the ball under pressure from John Stones of Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on 11 April 2023. (Photo: Shaun Botterill / Getty Images)

According to City boss Pep Guardiola (who is also a former Bayern manager), the dressing-room bust-up could fuel the German club’s fire as they pursue an unlikely comeback from the three-goal deficit, in front of home support.  

“Absolutely, sometimes you need conflict to make the team more together. I am pretty sure of that,” said Guardiola. “It’s not a weak point, it will be a strong point against us.”

Spaniard Guardiola – chasing his third Champions League title (and first with the English champions) after winning two with Barcelona – warned his side against a complacent approach to the second leg on Wednesday night. In spite of Bayern’s documented woes.

“We have to go there so aggressively to win the game, to score goals and win the game,” shared the tactician. “This is the mindset I have – and I would like to put that in the mind of my players.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bayern Munich out to shatter Man City’s European dream

“If we are going there to be a little bit passive in our game, they will be able to do like we were able to do [in the first leg].”

Thomas Tuchel’s team harbours hopes of mounting a dramatic comeback. They will rely on their passionate home supporters to spur them on. Of course, the players will have to be more cohesive and efficient than they’ve largely been this season.

Bayern will be buoyed by the fact that they have won all four of their Champions League games in front of their own fans this season, without conceding a single goal.

Since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, the Bavarians have also been victorious in 16 out of 18 home matches in Europe’s premier club competition. Half of those wins were by a scoreline that would at least be enough for extra time against City.  

Battle at the Bridge

Another side hoping for a miraculous comeback in their own backyard is Chelsea. The Blues trail record European champions Real Madrid 2-0 heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge.  

Chelsea overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Dortmund to reach this stage of the competition. They face a tougher task against Los Blancos following the defeat in Spain, courtesy of goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio.

Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid in action against Chelsea’s Reece James during their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first-leg clash t Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on 12 April 2023. (Photo: Chris Brunskill / Fantasista / Getty Images)

“We are fine. Motivated, as always. This is an important match, in an important competition. We have to play a full game. We have 90 minutes left and in this type of competition anything can happen. We are ready to play the best we can,” warned Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti ahead of the clash.

Chelsea will draw inspiration from their tie with Madrid at this stage last season, when they also trailed by two goals after the opening meeting before racing into a 3-0 lead at the Santiago Bernabéu during the return fixture. Madrid eventually squeezed through after extra time.

Being at home may prove useful for the Blues. Though, they haven’t been particularly impressive on home soil (or away for that matter) this season. With boos from the spectators an increasingly regular occurrence.

“It’s down to us as a team to play with desire to try to turn this game around. The atmosphere is going to be great, but it’s down to us to excite the crowd, because they can help us. We need to play our part,” said interim Chelsea coach Frank Lampard. DM

Champions League quarterfinal fixtures:

Tuesday, 18 April:

Chelsea vs Real Madrid (9pm)

Napoli vs AC Milan (9pm)

Wednesday, 19 April:

Bayern Munich vs Manchester City (9pm)

Inter Milan vs Benfica (9pm)

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