After knocking out the French champions Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, Bayern Munich have laid down a marker to the other teams left in the competition that they are one of the leading contenders to win the trophy again.
However, that does not make them automatic favourites. There are other teams still in whose credentials should not be overlooked, among them the defending champions Real Madrid.
And whilst the Germans continue to prosper in Europe, they have not had things all their own way on the domestic front this season.
Bayern’s Champions League pedigree
Bayern are one of the most successful team in the history of the Champions League, having won it six times in its various manifestations. The most recent of those triumphs came in 2020 when they beat PSG again, this time in the final in Lisbon.
The two clubs have one thing in common. They are dominant domestically, but as far as the boards of the respective clubs are concerned, how they perform in the Champions League is really the benchmark for success.
Christophe Galtier may well pay for his job after PSG’s latest failure, whilst Julien Nagelsmann is under no illusion as to what might happen to him were Bayern to exit at the quarter-final stage. He largely escaped criticism when they were surprisingly knocked out by the Spanish side Villarreal last year in his first season in charge, but the club will be less forgiving 12 months later.
In fact, not everything has been going to plan for Bayern in the Bundesliga, and initially they struggled for form after the World Cup with a successive of home draws.
They have also lost captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for the rest of the season after he broke his leg in a skiing accident.
Dropped points especially at home means that for once they face a real title challenge with Borussia Dortmund level on them at the top of the table on points, and this season’s surprise package, Union Berlin, not too far off.
Having won the last 10 Bundesliga titles, there is still work to do if they want to make it 11 consecutive.
There are other contenders
There are other major contenders who cannot be discounted, among them the defending champions Real Madrid. They already have one leg in the quarter-finals after beating Liverpool heavily in front of their own fans in the away fixture of their round of 16 tie, and it would take the footballing equivalent of a miracle for Jurgen Klopp’s side to turn things around.
No other team can boast the same history in this competition. They have won it 14 times in all, and last year they shared all their quality, staging dramatic comebacks in all three of their knockout games en route to the final.
Although they still have work to do in the second leg at the Etihad, having drawn with RB Leipzig away, Manchester City will be the favourites to progress and reach the last eight.
City have never won the competition and manager Pep Guardiola will consider it the one thing missing from his CV during his time in charge of the Premier League club.
However, having added the goals of Erling Haaland to his squad this season, he will be hoping that the Norwegian could prove to be the difference maker this time round.
Napoli’s chances should not be discounted and they may be considered the dark horses for the competition.
They have been the surprise team in Serie A this year. And with a 15-point lead at the top of Serie A, they are odds-on favourites to win their first Scudetto since Diego Maradona was with the club.
They have been strong in Europe this season, topping a group that also contained Liverpool in it and won away in Germany at Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their round of 16 tie.
Again, it is difficult to envisage the German side overcoming that deficit on Italian soil.
Much may depend on the quarter-final draw which will be held on March 17th. There are no seedings and no rules against clubs from the same country playing each other, so all options are theoretically on the table.
A kind draw against one of the lesser regarded teams could boost Bayern’s hopes of a seventh Champions League title. On the other hand, they could find themselves facing one of their biggest rivals, which will make the task much more difficult.
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