Bayern Munich must seize Champions League moment

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Chelsea's quite staggering first European triumph saw them beat Pep Guardiola's Barcelona at the semi-final stage to deny the Catalans the opportunity to become the first team to successfully defend the coveted Champions League. 

Didier Drogba's winner at Stamford Bridge coupled with a memorable draw at the Nou Camp saw the Blues progress, knocking out what is widely described as the best team ever assembled. 

Chelsea subsequently went on to lift the cup against Bayern Munich in their own backyard. Guardiola subsequently headed west to New York for a year-long sabbatical. 

Now, he's back - and should have unfinished business on his agenda. While he was no doubt enjoying a cold orange juice as he browsed the New York Times overlooking the Manhattan skyline, Jupp Heyneckes was busy leading Pep's new side to an historic Treble that included their second Champions League win and fifth European cup in total. 

In doing so, Heyneckes not only created an incredible winning mentality amongst his players, he cleansed them of their recent failures against Inter Milan in 2010 and Chelsea at the Allianz Arena two years later. 

They steam rolled their way to the Bundesliga title before holding out in a nervy German Cup final against VFB Stuttgart, with their triumphant night at Wembley against Borussia Dortmund sandwiched in between. 

Now Heyneckes is the one (possibly) sat on an apartment balcony in the Big Apple enjoying his retirement, he's given Guardiola the chance to create history and, in the process, exorcise some demons of his own.

It's a widely known fact that no team has managed to retain the Champions League. Guardiola's Barca side looked like they may be the first team to do so but were undone at home by a spirited Chelsea team who had fortune on their side. Is there a more obvious sign of it not being your night than Lionel Messi missing a penalty?

Things have changed dramatically since that night, with Guardiola now calling Munich his home. 

He's made an impressive - if not spectacular - start to life in charge of Germany's most successful team, winning ten and drawing two of his opening 12 league matches while leading Bayern to the knockout stages of the Champions League with four wins from four. They've scored 12 in those four, conceding one. Did I say 'not' spectacular?

Their seemingly effortless progression to the last-16 is only matched by Spain's... Atletico Madrid. Barcelona and Real Madrid have also both qualified, but without a 100% record. 

History tells you it will be these sides that stand in the way of Bayern in the latter stages of the tournament, as well as Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and last year's runners-up Dortmund. 

Now, I'm not here to tell you how good Bayern's team are. If you don't already know that, you're not reading this anyway. 

The reason Guardiola's side should be red-hot favourites for this year's European crown is because their main challengers are in limbo - almost every one of them. Granted, you could class Bayern as being in the same bracket, but a combination of arguably the best coach in the world and currently Europe's most well-drilled, complete squad is not going to need Walter White to create a chemistry between them. 

The same cannot be said for Moyes at United. He has adapted to being manager of England's European powerhouse indifferently, but has found his feet in the Champions League thanks to a relatively easy group consisting of Real Sociedad, Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Dontesk. 

However, their failure to win away from Old Trafford this year in the competition will ultimately be their down fall because against stronger opposition they will struggle away, and may well face an Old Trafford mountain to climb at some stage if they have to travel to an intimidating stadium for a first-leg encounter. 

I also doubt Chelsea will add to their 2012 success, this year at least. Mourinho knows how to get it done, he's done it with Porto and Inter Milan - but has somehow failed in Europe with Chelsea and Real Madrid. They were unfortunate, during his first spell at the Bridge, against Liverpool at the semi-final stage - but that was as close as they came. 

He was also desperately unlucky to not progress past Bayern, again in the semi-finals, when his side failed from the spot at the Santiago Bernabeu. The ball Sergio Ramos' used to take his penalty remains Absent Without Leave. 

Currently, Chelsea have a team and a manager that can - and will - be successful domestically and in Europe, but their start to the season suggests that will not be this year. They've stuttered to defeats against Everton and Newcastle in the league, as well as losing their opening group game to Basel. The Swiss team were more than good value for their win that night, too.

Then we come to Wenger's rejuvenated Arsenal side who just beat Dortmund in Germany - the first English team to do so. They've impressed in the league, but came unstuck against United at Old Trafford on Sunday, which ironically is the reason why I don't think they'll succeed in Europe this year. 

They have a much better chance this season than in previous years, but winning the Champions League requires you to beat the best - more than once. I don't believe this side could beat, say Paris Saint-German in the quarters, then Barca in the semis, then Bayern in the final. They, at this moment in time, do not have the mentality to achieve that.

Barcelona and Real Madrid can never be ruled out, obviously. They'll be there or thereabouts come April. But since Guardiola's exit from Catalonia, Messi and co have lost that unbeatable factor (I know they are currently unbeaten, but you know what I mean). 

Bayern humbled them in last year's semi 7 (seven) - 0 on aggregate. That certainly won't be repeated, but if they were to cross paths again this year, I'd expect to see Barca out at fives in most bookmakers on their trip to the Allianz. 

Finally, we come to their main threat: Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid. Having spent big - sorry, MASSIVE - in the summer, on Isco and Gareth Bale, the expectation on Carlo Ancelotti's shoulders is bigger than the sum they paid for their new Welshman. A date at Lisbon's Estádio de Luz for the final is a must, you'd think.

They've started exceptionally this year in Europe, amassing 14 goals in four unbeaten games. Last week's draw with Juventus in Turin is something not to be sniffed at. However, they're over reliance on Ronaldo is often their downfall when it gets to March and April in the Champions League, and while Bale is a world class outlet, the former Spurs man firing them to European glory for the first time since 2002 is a fairytale that probably won't come true.

So, it really is over to you, Pep and Bayern. His squad is laced with world class talent, and he's a manager capable of almost anything given his ample successes with Barcelona. No team has ever retained the Champions League. Come May, it could well be time to say Auf Wiedersehen to that old adage. 

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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