Bayern Munich will go into their Champions League last-16 second leg game at home at Allianz Arena, facing Shakhtar Donetsk. They will enter their home pitch anticipating how this game could make or break their season. Three weeks ago, the Ukrainians managed to not only hold on for a scoreless draw in the first leg but barely gave opponents a chance to score. Since Bayern came up empty in Arena L’viv, Shakhtar now possess the away goals rule advantage. Five-time European champions, Bayern needs to win to advance, a draw score will send the Ukrainians through otherwise. Despite this, we cannot forget that Bayern are the obvious Bundesliga leaders who made it to the German Cup quarter-finals last week. Yet anything short of raising Europe’s biggest club crown, will be remarked as a failure for Germany’s richest team.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola spoke with reporters about the upcoming match, after their 3-1 win at Hanover 96 on Saturday. “This match is a final for us. Only one thing matters and that is to win.” Bayern’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer also told media, “The game simply has to be won, nothing else comes into question for us.”
“We know what we have to do. They (Shakhtar) have extremely quick forwards and we cannot allow them to make their runs,” said the Spaniard.
Not one of Gotze, Mueller, Ribery or Robben impressed in that last match against Shakhtar. Yet the Bavarians remain odds-on favourites to move on through to the last 8. They are capable to handle this challenge accordingly as they have won all their previous home games in the group stage this season without giving up a goal. Domestically they have been equally impressive, scoring an amazing 21 goals in their last four league games.
“Against many opponents it is us who are the favourites and that is justified,” said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, who’ll sit out due to breaking his ankle late last year. “So it is also up to us and our own performances to make sure we can count ourselves among the top teams or not,” he told media. “Bayern have to advance because we want to belong to Europe’s elite,” he added.
Shakhtar represents a completely different kind of challenge compared to Bayern’s average domestic opponents. They have a fitter squad than most German teams, and they will be excited and motivated to play in a match in which they can bring down giants. Shakhtar’s desire to win was evident in the first leg, in which they offered little access to the ball but and had an immense amount of energy and pace to steer the game away from Bayern’s offense. They frustrated their opponents enough to elicit a pair of yellow cards that will see Bayern’s central midfielder, Xabi Alonso, suspended for Wednesday’s game. Still, the quality of Bayern’s talent is not lost on Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu who warned, “In Munich we must put in a fine show, otherwise we’re doomed.”
“We’ll be playing against a very strong club,” Lucescu told UEFA.com. “In my opinion Bayern are the world’s strongest football team at the moment.” And that Goliath is exactly what this team wants to take down.
Bayern will be inspired by their captain Lahm’s returning to practice after a long time away due to an ankle injury suffered late last season. And with their young talent scoring goals, as Thomas Mueller has of late, along with their veterans such as Arjen Robben catching up, they should be able to score having enough firepower to turn up the heat again at home. Since there is hardly any pressure on Shakhtar to out-perform their rivals, they should be more relaxed and all they need is one early goal to deliver a fatal blow and quiet the Germans. So we’ll take the upset in this one.
Shakhtar over Bayern 0-1