Two European and global footballing giants will battle tomorrow night (2:45 p.m. ET in the U.S.) in Germany:
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
In last year’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal brace, Real Madrid toppled then Pep Guardiola’s final squad in Munich 2-1 and then 4-2. Cristiano Ronaldo & Co.—coached by former star player and current star manager Zinedine Zidane—took down the German leaders with an exclamation point on their way to their second Champions League crown in a row.
But now it’s 2018.
And the Bayern Munich treble-winning coach Jupp Heynckes is on the sidelines once more. Since returning last fall, Mr. Heynckes has reinvigorated Bayern Munich into a formidable force after a disastrous spell with Carlo Ancelotti. Perhaps he can guide the Bundesliga champions to another treble? That’s what he was hired to do, after all. He didn’t leave retirement for a place in the Champions League semifinals.
This highly-anticipated matchup is set for tomorrow, which promises to be a showcase of world-class talent on both sides of the pitch.
Real Madrid is pursuing a new Champions League treble of sorts, while Bayern Munich is looking to return to their past treble-winning way.
Lionel Messi and Barcelona did not earn their way into the final four of the UEFA Champions League after a shocking 3-nil defeat against Roma that sent Roma to the semifinals based on away goals. Whoa.
“Of course that was a warning,” Robben told reporters. “It shows that everything can happen in football.”
And you thought college basketball had a monopoly on madness this time of year.
Soccer is the world’s game and one of this sport’s eternal truths is that anything can happen. The biggest clubs can dominate or stumble in spectacular fashion (see above). That’s part of soccer’s beauty. Another part of this sport’s amazing DNA is that–if approached with hard work, tact, talent, and patience–teams can set themselves up to peak at exactly the right time.
Enter the 2017/2018 Bayern Munich squad.
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Will Bayern Munich win the Champions League en route to another treble under the management of world-class coach Jupp Heynckes? We’ll see soon.
Most pundits have been critical of Bayern Munich this season outside the Bundesliga. Fair points have been made here and there, I suppose. Still, they’ve been tagged–as a result of a few less than stellar/perfect performances–with an underdog tag for the Champions League.
Well, those same “experts” may want to review the tape and “underdog” roster of Bayern Munich one more time…
because Liverpool, Roma, and Real Madrid certainly are.
The draw for the semifinal matchups is this Friday. Stay tuned to Jimmy’s Daily Planet for the must-see fixtures.
P.S. Bayern Munich has dominated the Bundesliga and has qualified for the UEFA Champions League semifinal without Manuel Neuer. Or, in other words, the world’s best goalkeeper. How many other clubs could do that? Just saying.
Those on the inside, as well as fans on the outside, may finally be united in declaring the following:
Arsène Wenger’s reign over Arsenal is (unofficially) over. And as of right now in 2017, Arsenal is (at least temporarily) done as a world footballing powerhouse.
Despite the chronic problems Mr. Wenger, the 67 year-old Frenchman, has managed (and reinforced) during the past several years as the club’s head coach, he did deliver many great seasons and players in the years prior. Moreover, if Arsène Wenger was going to be fired mid-season, then he would have received his walking papers during the second half of the Champions League match against Bayern Munich earlier this week. Mr. Wenger will, it appears, be given the respect to finish out the 2016/2017 season. The 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich this past Tuesday in London (the second 5-1 loss in the two-game Champions League series against the German giants), again, “unofficially” ended the Wenger Era at Arsenal.
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After this season ends, however, Mr. Wenger and Arsenal have to part ways. This moment is unambiguous, even to the painfully reluctant owners of Arsenal with the power to hire and fire the manager.
But there is a significant risk to giving Mr. Wenger the managerial elasticity to finish the current English Premier League campaign. Arsenal is currently in fifth place, having a dreadful past few weeks. If Mr. Wenger can inspire his players unlike games prior (seriously doubtful), then the new Arsenal manager (TBD) will have the potential for immediate redemption in the 2017/2018 Champions League. But if Mr. Wenger can’t inspire his players to find that missing greatness on the pitch (seriously plausible), then the new Arsenal manager will have to sit-out of the Champions League for the 2017/2018 season.
The Gunners are engaging in the tricky dynamic of Risk v. Respect. Both options are understandable.
Moving forward though, what good is a canon if it only shoots blanks and completely fails to intimidate its targets?