Villaflor: Bayern’s Imaginary demons

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Monday, March 10, 2014

WHEN was the last time you’ve watched a Champions League match on live television? If you can’t remember, don’t fret.

There are many football fans just like you who have to agonize over the airtime

Thing is, there’s nothing that can really be done about it. Like it or not, the matches will always start at 3:30 a.m., primarily for the enjoyment of viewers in


Unless you live in a different time zone or you’re nocturnal, getting up in the wee hours to watch the games is a challenge that takes superhuman effort.

But tomorrow morning’s match at 3:30 a.m. is something else. The Round of 16 second leg match between Bayern Munich and Arsenal should be enough reason for you to drag yourself out of bed.

For those who have cable TV, Bayern vs. Arsenal will be shown live on Balls Channel, followed by Atletico Madrid vs. AC Milan at 5:30 a.m. Also, you can head straight to one of those bars in Cebu that never sleep.

A CASE OF HISTORY REPEATING? Bayern vs. Arsenal is intriguing for many reasons. One, this season’s matchup is a repeat of the 2012-2013 Uefa Champions League Round of 16 meeting between the two.

The aggregate score ended 3-3, but Bayern advanced by virtue of an away goal – Bayern won 3-1 win at Emirates Stadium in London in the first leg. Arsenal won the return match 2-0 at the Allianz Arena in Munich, but this wasn’t enough to see them through.

Last year’s result has prompted Bayern manager Pep Guardiola, who took over this season, to warn his wards not to take the Gunners lightly in their “rematch.”

“If we give Arsenal too much possession, we will have big, big problems,” Guardiola was quoted as saying in an Agence France-Presse report. “If we keep the ball, we’ll get into the quarter-finals, if they control it, they’ll go through.”

HOW LONDON WAS LOST. In football, as in many endeavors in life, a team is only as good as its last performance. Yet that last performance – in this case the first leg – offers significant indicators on how the next meeting might turn out.

In the first leg, Bayern only managed to control the game and scored after Arsenal’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczsny was shown the red card. Before that, the Gunners created dangerous chances of their own, including a missed penalty by Mesut Özil.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger must rue that missed opportunity to take the lead, on that would have changed the complexion of the game. The English club paid for it dearly when disaster struck: Szczsny was thrown out, allowing Bayern to impose its will for the rest of the match.

Consider these numbers: Bayern had 73 percent possession, as well as 26 attempts at goal to Arsenal’s anemic six.

CAN ARSENAL OVERCOME BAYERN? Actually, the question should be: “Can Bayern allow
Arsenal to overcome them?”

Well, this is what Guardiola essentially told his wards when he warned them not to allow Arsenal to keep “too much possession” of the ball. The underlying message is that it is for Bayern to lose the game: a lack of respect for the club from London could cost them a quarterfinal slot.

The German side has plenty of reasons to be confident about as they walk into the Allianz Arena pitch tomorrow. A home field advantage notwithstanding, Bayern is on a roll. Apart from breaking the league record of number of goals scored in a season with 72, the club is running on a 49-game unbeaten streak in the league.

ARSENAL’S DEMONS. Incidentally, the Gunners achieved a similar 49-match unbeaten feat in 2004. But the similarities end there.

Arsenal, which has not won the English Premier League title in 10 years, is underachieving in the domestic league yet again, at third, behind Liverpool and leaders Chelsea.

Arsenal’s defense has been leaking goals – 33 so far in both the EPL and the Champions League combined, more than half of Bayern’s total of 16 in both tournaments.

Unlike Arsenal, Bayern has no demons to wrestle with. That is if the German side doesn’t count overconfidence as one.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 11, 2014.


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