Bayern’s Champions League group will test Ancelotti’s tactics

Bayern Munich have received an attractive group in today’s Champions League draw. Aside from the much talked about Paris Saint-Germain including €222 million man Neymar, die Roten will face RSC Anderlecht and Celtic.

What may seem like a relatively easy group to many could turn into a tough outing, if Bayern and coach Carlo Ancelotti fail to get it right, especially away from home.

Early meeting with Qat…French top team

The prominently occupied second pot left its writing on the wall before the first ball was even drawn. Bayern would very likely face a big name early on. This big name turned out to be Paris Saint-Germain who stole the headlines this summer with their €222 million purchase of Brazilian striker Neymar.

As they still seem to – somehow – be in the race for starlet Kylian Mbappé too, we can probably expect some more noise out of the French capital for days to come. When looking at their previous season, it is relatively hard to be scared of the former French champions anyway. Their ridiculous exit from the competition after going to Barcelona with a four goal advantage surely remains in the players’ minds.

In general, they can compete with a pretty solid lineup which usually stands or falls with the form of Edinson Cavani. Uruguay’s international is the key man up front and finally receives the much needed quality help from his new South American teammate.

Belgian champions for the ninth and tenth time

RSC Anderlecht has been a household name in European competitions since a long time and find themselves back in the competition once again this year. The Belgian champions will face Bayern Munich for the ninth and tenth time in history.

It has been a while since the two clubs squared off however. During the Europe League season 2007-08, Bayern managed to win the first leg away from home 0:5, making the second game redundant. That is exactly how they ended up playing and lost 1:2 at the Allianz Arena.

Nowadays, Anderlecht’s team is not going to scare anybody, but will fight hard for their chance in each game. They are being led by Algerian captain Sofiane Hanni, who plays an offensive midfield role behind a line of three attackers. In the Champions League however, the team of former Nuremberg coach René Weiler will likely elect a more conservative approach. RSC should be the easiest of all three opponents for the Bavarians and hopefully lead to six points.

Scottish invasion in Munich’s beer gardens

The team I am personally most excited about drawing is Celtic FC. After surviving a big scare in the second playoff leg away to Astana, the 48-time Scottish champions will visit Munich for just the second time in history.

Despite both club’s long European history, fate has only matched up the two sides during the group stage of the 2003-04 season. Back then, the Reds celebrated a 2:1 home win through two goals of Roy Makaay and drew 0:0 away from home. The latter will yet again turn into a big challenge, as other clubs such as Barcelona had to experience in recent history. Winning at so-called Paradise is a tough task for any team travelling to Glasgow.

A stunning atmosphere on Champions League nights in particular will create excellent entertainment in the stadium and in front of the TV. In addition, Munich’s beer gardens and bars should already stack up on beer reserves in advance. Celtic will build on their magnificent fighting spirit, paired with some really good strikers. Moussa Dembélé, Leigh Griffiths and Scott Sinclair all know how to find the back of the net and Bayern’s defense has not exactly stood tall in a while.

Bayern should advance comfortably, but…

Let us be clear and not make the opponents stronger than Pep Guardiola ever could. It would be a sensation if Bayern did not make it to the round of 16 from this group, despite “super, super” opposition.

Nevertheless, especially the away games in Paris and Glasgow will be a challenge that cannot be underestimated. If the Bavarians want to assure top spot in Group B, they will have to take something home from those games. It will also be a nice challenge for the 17-18 Bayern to see if they finally manage to solve tactical issues that have surrounded the club for a while now.

Considering the other strong groups (Barça with Juve, Real with Dortmund, Atlético with Chelsea), first place might not matter as much as it used to. Considering the team’s own understanding of belonging to Europe’s top 3 though, it would not be appropriate to finish behind Unai Emery’s PSG.

Fixtures

  • 12 September: Bayern – Anderlecht
  • 27 September: PSG – Bayern
  • 18 October: Bayern – Celtic
  • 31 October: Celtic – Bayern
  • 22 November: Anderlecht – Bayern
  • 5 December: Bayern – PSG