The top clubs in Europe return to Champions League action in only a week and we’ll be previewing them all here! The round of 16 continues into late February.
Up next in our series of previews is German club Bayern Munich from Group B traveling to Stamford Bridge in London, England to face the Group H runner up, Chelsea. Bayern Munich comes into this match leading the Bundesliga, while Chelsea enters in fourth place after a 2-0 defeat by Manchester United.
Here’s a look at the clubs:
Bayern Munich currently resides at the top of a very congested Bundesliga table. The top four are all within four points, and the fourth-placed team has a game in hand. Munich leads the league in the fewest goals conceded and has the best goal difference while residing in second-place in goals scored to Borussia Dortmund (who won their opener 2-1). Munich has been on a rampage at home averaging three goals scored per game while conceding less than one. They’ve, unfortunately for their opponents, been nearly as good away from home scoring three goals scored per game although their concessions have gone up nearly a half goal.
In the Champions League, the rampage narrative continues after going a perfect six for six in group stage matches. Similarly, they’ve scored four goals and allowed less than one goal per game. They are the only team in the Champions League to escape the group stage completely unscathed, especially given the eight-point gap between them and the Group B runner up, Tottenham. Perhaps quizzically, Munich has actually been “worse” at home in the Champions League, with only 2.6 goals scored per game and 0.3 goals conceded per game. Away from home, the team is averaging an astonishing 5.3 goals scored per game with a modest increase to 1.3 goals scored per game.
Players to Watch:
Robert Lewandowski: Lewandowski looks all but certain to add more medals to his already overflowing treasure trove. He’s scored a ridiculous 23 goals in 22 games as the Bundesliga’s top scorer. He’s been recognized for his form in the German league with five Man Of The Match awards, giving credence to his value to the team. His insane strike-rate continues in the Champions League, with ten goals 10 more goals in a mere five Champions League matches. As evidenced by the three Man Of The Match awards, the decorated German continues to ply his trade quite successfully at the very top level of competition.
Thomas Müller: Like his fellow countryman, another German has been prolific for the club by adding five goals and 14 assists to join Lewandowski as a league-leader, this time in assists. In the Champions League, his contributions haven’t been as prolific but he’s been limited to two starts (and three substitute appearances) in which he’s added two goals and an assist to the cause. The 30-year-old has seen his playing time decrease some, but I expect that this is nothing more than being careful with the aging World Cup winner.
Serge Gnabry: All three Players to Watch are German through and through. Gnabry is in his second year with Bayern Munich (by way of Arsenal and Werder Bremen) and Gnabry hasn’t wasted any time in establishing his value to the club with nine goals and six assists in twenty games in the Bundesliga. For his exploits, he’s been awarded the same number of Man of the Match awards as his elder statesman, Lewandowski, with five. Gnabry has made four starting appearances with an additional substitute appearance to add four goals, an assist in the UCL, and yet another Man of the Match award.
The first domestic campaign under club Legend Frank Lampard sees them following in the footsteps of last year. Some of their players expected to play major minutes, like Christian Pulisic, have been limited by injury and that may contribute to their standing. Chelsea’s home form has been dreadful this season securing only 18 points in 13 matches while scoring and conceding slightly over one goal per game. Their away form has been markedly better, more than doubling their goals scored while keeping concessions the same. However, their recent away form has seen them slumping as well with two wins, two draws, and two losses in their last six matches.
In the Champions League, Chelsea managed a second-place finish (on a tie-breaker) after scoring an average of two goals per game and conceding 1.5 goals per game. They expanded upon their lack of home form securing only four of nine possible points at home and recording seven of nine possible points on the road. Chelsea will have undoubtedly seen Bayern Munich’s rampant performances in the Champions League and will be trying to minimize the damage while staying competitive in front of the home fans. This first leg might set up to be an important one for Chelsea who is scoring the same number as they are conceding at home (both at two per game). If Chelsea falls behind in this match by more than one — maybe two — goals, I have serious concerns about their ability to overcome the deficit.
Players to Watch:
Tammy Abraham: Abraham made the step up from Aston Villa’s Championship (division) run where he netted 25 goals season. He’s on pace to score a bunch of goals, despite the increase in opponent difficulty. So far this season he’s the seventh-best scorer in the Premier League with 13 goals to which he’s also added three assists. He hasn’t really dazzled for the club in the Champions League though, where he’s managed only a pair of goals and an assist. With Pulisic still out, Abraham is likely to remain the focal point for opposing teams, which means that he will have to work even harder or that someone else will need to get more involved. I think that if Abraham can get a goal in this first match, it should help Chelsea stay in a position where they have the opportunity to advance.
Willian: With the injury to Pulisic, Willian has been asked to play further up the field as a striker. Unfortunately, Willian has performed markedly better when playing in the attacking midfield role where he’s scored four total goals as opposed to one scored as a striker. In the Premier League, he’s functioned as the team’s co-leading assist provider with four and also happens to have scored four goals. His production has lessened in the Champions League with a single goal and a single assist, which actually ties him for the most assists provided with about half of the Chelsea team.
Cesar Azpilicueta: Azpilicueta has been a consistent defender for the team throughout both the Premier League and Champions League campaigns. In England, Azipilcueta has provided the second-most assists (after a three-way tie for first) on the team with three. He’s also added two goals across his 24 appearances. The reason he’s making this list though is not for his defensive capabilities alone, he’s scored two goals in the Champions League also, which given Chelsea’s offensive woes has put him tied for the top scorer in the Champions League I think that for Chelsea to win this match, they are going to need to find some goals from places other than the striker positions because I expect Bayern Munich to close them down to the best of their abilities.
What to Expect
Chelsea is a massive underdog in a home contest to Bayern Munich, and frankly, it’s for a reason. Bayern Munich has been steamrolling opponents, especially on the road, including a seven-goal performance in the group stage. Chelsea has struggled through the season, especially at home. This should set up to be a relatively high scoring game because I think this will force Lampard into a more attacking setup. Bayern Munich is too good to park the bus and hope to win against, so Chelsea will have to find a way to minimize the margin. Chelsea would love to spring a surprise here, but it will take some seriously inspired performances from our players to watch, and likely from Kepa as well.
Last Updated: February 20, 2020