Bayern Munich has an eye on the past prior to the first collision with Chelsea since heartbreak 2012
It was all a smile at the Bayern Munich camp on Monday, when Hansi Flick’s side put the finishing touches to preparations for their confrontation with Chelsea in the Champions League.
Flick, who turns 55 this week, was treated to a ‘Happy Birthday’ choir, and there was good news when Leon Goretzka returned to training after picking up a knock at the end of last week.
But amid good spirits – it’s carnival season in southern and western Germany – Bayern has one eye on the problems of the past as they head to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Hansi Flick has completed Bayern Munich for the Chelsea collision
It was all smiling in the camp with the players who serenaded Flick with an interpretation of ‘Happy Birthday’
There is the recent past – a somewhat manic performance against Paderborn at the bottom of the table last Saturday in which several players made no impression and only a late Robert Lewandowski strike struck three points.
And then of course there is the distant past. The last time Chelsea and Bayern met was in the final of the Champions League. That fateful night in May 2012, when Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Co. Bavarian dreams were destroyed to be crowned kings of Europe in their own stadium.
In the eight years since then, much has changed in both clubs, and Bayern remains a side in the transition as the class of 2012 continues to fade in history. They go to the second round draw as wary favorites, aware that Chelsea can be the banana peel that ruined the mood and plunged them back into a crisis.
Sportsmail has the low point on the reverse season of Bayern.
Bayern Munich is facing Chelsea and will be wary of their last heartache in the Champions League
After a turbulent but ultimately successful directing year, even a domestic double was not enough to save Niko Kovac’s skin when the team turned against him and imploded his government in the fall. He left after a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt with Bayern in fourth place, six points lower than the leaders.
Since then, the Flick factor has shot the champions back to the top of the Bundesliga. Joachim Loew’s former right-hand man, Hansi Flick, was initially assumed to be a stopover until the end of the calendar year, but is now being talked about as a long-term solution.
Flick was hired as a stopover, but is now considered a long-term solution after positive results
Flick has wrestling stars like Thomas Muller who fired again and was praised this week by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as “the Bayern philosophy returned,” the Bayern CEO compared him to Louis Van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.
He certainly plays a more elaborate style of football, and a more successful one, with 13 wins in 16 games since taking the lead in November.
Champions League ambitions
Still, Flick’s future in the Bayern dugout can depend primarily on how Bayern is doing in the Champions League.
At the Munich airport on Monday, Rummenigge spoke with reporters about the ‘significant international expectations’ at the club. Translated from Bayern-speak, this means that Flick is expected to go far in Europe after last season’s second-round exit to Liverpool.
Bayern was limping in their knockout to Liverpool last year and the rage angered club heads
Their first task will be to make sure they get away with an out-goal against Chelsea. Apart from the defeat itself, it was the negative football that Bayern played against Liverpool that raged both players and bosses.
Star striker Lewandowski was one of several players who strongly criticized Kovac after the draw and this year he is determined to take his team further.
“I still believe that one day we will play in the Champions League final and win,” Lewandowski told the Guardian last week. The Pole still wins the biggest prize in Europe, and despite its relentless scores, Bayern has often released spaces in the final stages of the tournament.
Amidst all the exits of the semi-finals, quarter-finals and second round of the last ten years, it is the 2012 final that is still the smartest for Bayern, and that should give the Tuesday procedure even more momentum.
Several players from the 2012 vintage still play important roles in today’s Bayern, including Muller, Manuel Neuer and David Alaba.
They have all tried to minimize the significance of meeting Chelsea again.
Bayern’s 2012 final defeat on penalties against Chelsea is likely to add the spice to Tuesday’s clash
Former president Uli Hoeness set a challenging tone and wants the club to make up for the loss
“We don’t necessarily have to talk about it,” Neuer grimly told reporters, while Muller insisted it had “nothing to do” with the game this week.
But former President Uli Hoeness, who previously described the 2012 nightmare as worse than the dramatic defeat to Manchester United in the 1999 final, set a different tone.
“We have to make up for something here,” Hoeness said Monday.
Bild may have yelled this week “Why Bayern no longer needs to fear Chelsea”, but it is safe to say that in Bavaria itself the old guard will no longer make that mistake.
Although there is still a core of veterans in this Bayern team, the current harvest may also be the most unknown Bayern side of the last few years.
People like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mats Hummels and Rafinha left last year, leaving more room for precocious young people and new constellations.
The current harvest at the club is perhaps the most unknown Bayern team in recent years
Flick has continued to establish younger players in the first team, such as Serge Gnabry
One of Kovac’s most important successes in Bayern was the establishment of younger players such as Serge Gnabry and Niklas Sule in the first team, and Flick has continued that work.
While Sule is still injured, Gnabry showed his quality in the 7-2 demolition of Tottenham earlier this season, and Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies – whose father is a Chelsea fan – has also become an important player as a winger and part-time full back .
The youngsters have largely made more impression than the new acquisitions this season. Alvaro Odriozola and Philippe Coutinho have both had a disappointment so far, while the signing of the record Lucas Hernandez is only now returning from a long injury.