Are Bayern favourites for the Henkelpott?
The Bavarians claimed the Bundesliga with an almost perfect Rückrunde and ended up 13 points ahead of runners-up Borussia Dortmund. Unbeaten in 2020, with a side that looks to have no weakness, you would have to say that yes, Bayern Munich are one of the favourites to lift the Champions League this season albeit in stranger circumstances that normal.
They are looking to emulate the famous 2013 triple winners under Jupp Heynckes and even though they have a tough route to lifting the trophy, confidence must be high that they can claim a sixth European crown. In Robert Lewandowski, they have arguably Europe’s top goal scorer (even though Ciro Immobile currently leads the Golden Boot standings), they possess a solid defence marshalled by the highly impressive David Alaba (a 2013 Champions League winner), they have leaders in Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Müller, and youthful talent in Serge Gnabry and Alphonso Davies.
The settled line-up has been hit by the injury to Benjamin Pavard, meaning a return to right back for Joshua Kimmich, but when Thiago Alcantara is your replacement, there can be little cause for concern.
With a 3-0 lead over Chelsea going into their second leg at the Allianz Arena, progress to the quarter final seems a formality. Hansi Flick’s side would then face the winners of the Napoli/ Barcelona tie. Should they progress to the semis, it would be either Manchester City/ Real Madrid/ Lyon or Juventus.
Whether or not Bayern’s time without a competitive match (35 days) will be an advantage or disadvantage remains to be seen. A recent Kicker survey asked readers opinion as to the Champions League favourites with 50.4% choosing Bayern. German bias or realism? Time will soon tell, but don’t be too surprised to see Bayern lifting the famous Henkelpott at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on 23 August.
How will RB Leipzig cope without Timo Werner?
Chelsea’s decision to sign Timo Werner this summer and then insist that he joined immediately rather than seeing out RB Leipzig’s Champions League was understandable on the part of the London club, but a huge blow to the Saxons.
The German international scored a season best 28 Bundesliga goals as well as adding four in this season’s Champions League. Leipzig now must face Atletico Madrid in their quarter final without their talismanic striker, so just how will Julian Nagelsmann replace Werner and his goals?
Die Roten Bullen paid €15 million to RB Salzburg for 24-year-old Korean striker Hwang Hee-chan with the hope that he can step into Werner’s goalscoring boots at the Red Bull Arena. Patrik Schick and Yussuf Poulsen are the other options open to Julian Nagelsmann as he plots taking Leipzig beyond the quarter finals to face either Atalanta or Paris St Germain.
Leverkusen or Neverkusen?
Unlike Timo Werner at Leipzig, it appears that Kai Havertz is going to play a full part in the rest of Bayer Leverkusen’s Europa League campaign. How long that campaign lasts remains to be seen, but first the Werkself must overcome Scottish side Rangers. With a 3-1 lead from the first leg in Glasgow, progression to the quarter finals seems straightforward, but they will then, in all likelihood, face Italian giants Inter Milan.
That will be an extremely tough encounter for Peter Bosz’s side, but should they get past the Nerrazurri, it would be either Shakhtar Donetsk, VfL Wolfsburg, FC Basel, or Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-final. Manchester United or Sevilla could then await them in the final.
Having missed out on a Bundesliga top-four finish and finishing as DFB Pokal runners-up, it looks likely that they will struggle to shake off their unfortunate moniker of ‘Neverkusen’ this season with the Europa League proving a step too far.
Can Eintracht go all the way this year?
The short answer: no.
Beaten in the semi-final last year on penalties by Chelsea, Eintracht Frankfurt will need to pull off a miracle if they are to emulate (or even beat) last year’s Europa League achievement.
An aberration of a performance in their round of 16 first leg at the Commerzbank Arena saw them slump to a 3-0 defeat to FC Basel meaning they are going to have to pull of a massive win this week to have any hope of progress.
There is an argument that a year without European football would actually do Frankfurt some good next season, with the squad struggling at times with the extra burden. Adi Hütter would have extra time to train with his squad and the players would be a lot fresher for the Bundesliga, which wasn’t always the case this season.
Will Covid-19 affect Wolfsburg?
A positive test for Kevin Mbabu has ruled him out of Wolfsburg’s clash with Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. The right back tested positive for the virus and is now isolating at home.
“Kevin doesn’t currently have any symptoms. We’ll now wait for things to take their course and we are in close and very good communication with the Wolfsburg health authorities, as we have been over the past months,” Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schäfer said.
The fact that William is also currently out with a cruciate knee injury leaves trainer Oliver Glasner a little undermanned at right back as he prepares to take on the Ukrainians in their round of 16 second leg. Shakhtar lead 2-1 from the first leg, so it will be a tough ask of Wolfsburg to progress.