When Juventus went out to Bayern Munich looking outclassed and frustrated, most immediately wrote them off and said that they weren’t ready for the Champions League’s latter stages as the 4-0 aggregate scoreline looked like they were convincingly beaten.
Even though Bayern disposed of Juve with minimal fuss, the Bianconeri did not look like the team that had easily tore apart Chelsea four months earlier, and should the Bavarian giants had met that side, then the outcome could have been very different.
Though taking no credit away from Bayern, they are currently Europe’s form team and the ease with which they beat Barcelona showed their immense quality. Ever since the departure of Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have not been the wonderfully brilliant side that neutrals fell in love with.
They have been scrappy and have also looked impotent in attack, something that Guardiola’s class of 2008 never experienced.
In the last meeting between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the Catalans were up by four goals to nil by half-time, and it was the Germans who were left licking their wounds after being obliterated. Obviously the Bayern team has improved massively, spending money where they need it and hiring the old genius, Jupp Heynckes.
Although Barcelona’s quality makes them one of the most feared teams in Europe, among the big boys, they are not so big anymore, as in the group stage, even Celtic found a way past them. It wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done.
As well as Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona, there is a new power rising in the west: Paris Saint Germain. The French giants are a newly mega-rich club, and sent shockwaves through Europe with the signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Eziquiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Salvatore Sirigu and Lucas Moura.
They have built one of the best squads in Europe, and pushed Barcelona the whole way in the Champions League quarter-final stages, which confirmed their graduation to Europe’s elite - something that Manchester City have still failed to do.
As Juventus have lately come back to the grand European stage, another great team of the 1980s and '90s have returned: Borussia Dortmund.
The German side won two successive Bundesliga titles, before Bayern Munich stole it off them in spectacular fashion. Although Dortmund had an incredibly disappointing Champions League campaign last season, they have really shown what they can do this season, making their way to the semi-finals, and holding a 4-1 aggregate lead over Real Madrid. Something very few teams could replicate.
As Real Madrid still look strong, there has been a sense of doubt about the Galacticos this season, as a seemingly deteriorated Barcelona side have been the champions-elect since Christmas, taking La Liga by storm.
Although Los Merengues have a positive head-to-head record against the Catalans this term, their bid to retain the league title has proved to be highly unsuccessful, and they too have looked rather normal at points of the season.
With a semi-final second leg with Dortmund approaching, 4-1 down on aggregate, they must produce a flawless performance at the Bernebeau.
The current top five teams in Europe going by domestic and European achievement:
1. Bayern Munich
3. Real Madrid
5. Borussia Dortmund
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