Skip to content

This time, Bayern Munich will need more than Robben

Apr 17, 2012, 2:04 AM EST

Bayern Munich's Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben Getty Images

If Tuesday is Bayern’s last home game of Champions League, 2011-12 will be considered a failure. Their recent league loss to Borussia Dortmund made regaining the Bundesliga a pipe dream, and while the German Cup is still in play, only an appearance in the Champions League final will validate their season. With the May 19 finale slated for their home field, Allianz Arena, making the last two has always been obligatory.

Rightfully, Real Madrid is seen as the favorite, but the class in Bayern’s side cannot be ignored. Whereas most of Real’s opponents wouldn’t place one player in José Mourinho’s lineup, a number of Bayern stars would compete for spots. In some minds, Manuel Neuer is Iker Casillas’ equal in goal. Defender Phillip Lahm and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger would slot right in, while room could be make for attackers Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller. With Mario Gomez of a similar caliber to Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, most of Bayern’s XI can be seen as equal (or better) to their opposing number.

And then there’s Bayern’s most talented player, Arjen Robben. Along with fellow Netherlands international Wesley Sneijder, Robben was castoff by Real Madrid before the 2009-10 season. Both players tried to stay at Real, with many asking the obvious: Why wouldn’t a team want to keep Robben and Sneijder? But with the latest Florentino Pérez reign having just bought Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso, recoup some of the €253 million outlay became more important. Real eventually convinced their Dutch stars to move on.

Less than a year later, both were back at the Bernabeu, Bayern eventually losing to Sneijder’s Inter Milan in the 2010 Champions League final. That year, Real Madrid went out to Lyon in the round of 16, their last tournament before recruiting Mourinho.

Tuesday will be the first time El Real has faced Robben or Sneijder since their sales.

“I had some very good years at Madrid,” Robben told Spanish outlet Marca. “It’s a great club, and it’s obviously special to face my old teammates, but I have been at Bayern for a while now and I am happy here. I am thinking above all about getting to the final, whoever the rival is.”

Above all, it’s about getting to the final. It’s not about the next game. It’s not about winning Champions League. It’s not even about the unique challenges of facing one of the world’s two best teams. Even for Robben, a man who has every motive to make the semifinal personal, a Madrid matchup is inconsequential next to the ultimate goal. Bayern must make a Munich final.

If they’re to do so, Robben has to lead the way. As much talent as Bayern has, Robben is on another level. At his best, he’s as good as Cristiano Ronaldo, his left-foot arguably the game’s most dangerous weapon (as Manchester United found out two years ago). The only things keeping him from sharing Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s rarified air are consistency and health, neither of which should factor against Real Madrid. As he showed two years ago, a healthy Robben can carry a team through this tournament.

How Real deals with Bayern’s dangerman is José Mourinho’s first big decision, one he’s likely already made. At left back, he has to choose between the attack-oriented Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao, who is better suited for a more traditional fullback’s responsibilities. Most see Coentrao getting the call, which may have as much to do with opening on the road as Bayern’s right winger.

If Robben’s on his game, the selection may not matter. Whoever is Real’s left back will need help from Pepe from the middle, Sami Khedira in midfield. It’s the same type of multi-player approach any coach would use to neutralize any of the world’s best, an approach that carries an obvious limitation: If Robben is on, the plan may not matter. He’ll find a way to score goals.

The question is whether it will be enough. Two years ago, Robben was able to lead Bayern past Manchester United, but Real Madrid is worlds better than that United team. Not only will Munich need heroics from Robben, but they’ll need to stifle an attack that’s averaging over three goals per match in Spain.

Impossible? No, but you can see why most are picking Real to go through.

Latest Posts
  1. Yikes: Suspended Bradley Wright-Phillips, teammates, Petke “didn’t know rules” of card accumulation

    Nov 24, 2014, 11:35 AM EST

    Bradley Wright-Phillips AP

    No one told Wright-Phillips another yellow card would keep him out of an MLS Cup Playoff game. Pretty unsettling if you’re a Red Bulls fan.

  2. Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta “shocked” at loss to Manchester United, rues “lack of ruthlessness”

    Nov 24, 2014, 10:45 AM EST

    Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Arteta felt they were dominating the game before an own goal from Kieran Gibbs changed the temperature and, at the risk of losing something in the language, doesn’t think highly of the Red Devils.

  3. England women set attendance record in loss at Wembley Stadium

    Nov 24, 2014, 9:46 AM EST

    England v Germany - Women's International Friendly Getty Images

    It wasn’t quite a number that rivaled top American matches, but women’s soccer in England can take an extra bow.

  4. Americans Abroad review: Boyd bags brace, Johannsson heads home (video)

    Nov 24, 2014, 9:09 AM EST

    Dutch Eredivisie - "AZ Alkmaar v Vitesse Arnhem" Getty Images

    A trio of American attackers scored goals and a bevy of defenders and netminders worked good shifts in the own end.

  5. FIFPro’s World XI five goalkeeper shortlist includes… Iker Casillas???

    Nov 24, 2014, 8:20 AM EST

    iker_casillas Getty Images

    Certainly keepers like David De Gea, Tim Howard, Wojciech Szczesny, Hugo Lloris and Salvatore Sirigu are scratching their heads.

  6. Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Southampton

    Nov 24, 2014, 7:30 AM EST

    http://www.avfc.co.uk/ http://www.avfc.co.uk/

    Two teams on very different form meet on NBCSN to finish off the weekend’s Premier League action.

  7. La Liga and Serie A roundup: Valencia, Napoli falter in Champions League bids; Milan derby a stalemate

    Nov 23, 2014, 10:20 PM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-LEVANTE-VALENCIA Getty Images

    Catch up on all of Sunday’s action and movement in La Liga and Serie A.

  8. Inside Look, MLS Cup Playoffs: How Revs, Galaxy built very different one-goal leads

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:15 PM EST

    Jermaine Jones AP

    The Revs and Galaxy may both hold one-goal advantages, but they’re very different leads built in very different ways.

  9. Video: Warnock delighted with “old fashioned cup tie” from Palace

    Nov 23, 2014, 7:45 PM EST

    Warnock Getty Images

    The Crystal Palace manager hailed his side’s “Neil Warnock performance” as they pull themselves out of the relegation zone.

  10. Recap: LA Galaxy grab 1-0 lead over Seattle Sounders in Western Conference Championship

    Nov 23, 2014, 7:14 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy - Western Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    The Galaxy find themselves just 90 minutes from the third MLS Cup final in four years after a narrow victory over the Sounders.

  11. Halftime, MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders in 0-0 Western Conference Championship stalemate

    Nov 23, 2014, 6:05 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy - Western Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    Zeroes on the scoresheet, but plenty of action in the first half. Sounders very patient, but Galaxy getting close.

  12. Despite artificial turf, New York Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry says he’ll play next week at New England

    Nov 23, 2014, 5:32 PM EST

    New England Revolution v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    He’s only ever done it twice in his MLS career, but with the season — and maybe his career — on the line, Thierry Henry will play on artificial turf next week.

  13. Video: Mauricio Pochettino keeps even keel after Hull win

    Nov 23, 2014, 4:50 PM EST

    Pochettino Getty Images

    The Spurs manager wouldn’t be drawn into talk about the winner from Christian Eriksen or the red card to Gaston Ramirez, instead discussing how he was just delighted to get three points any way he can.

  14. Lineups, MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy host Seattle Sounders in Western Conference Championship, leg 1

    Nov 23, 2014, 4:25 PM EST

    Juninho, Landon Donovan, Dan Gargan, Robbie Keane Juninho, Landon Donovan, Dan Gargan, Robbie Keane

    Lineups are in for the Galaxy and Sounders’ Western Conference Championship first leg matchup. Two massive omissions leave Seattle shorthanded.

  15. Recap: New England Revolution snatch 2-1 lead, two away goals from New York Red Bulls

    Nov 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EST

    Jermaine Jones, Luis Robles AP

    The Eastern Conference Championship first leg finished Red Bulls 1-2 Revolution, putting Jay Heaps’ side in full control of the series.

  16. Video: Bruce rues Ramirez red card which “ruined the spectacle”

    Nov 23, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Bruce Getty Images

    Steve Bruce challenged the decision to give Gaston Ramirez a straight red card, and criticized Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen for going down too easily.

  17. Halftime, MLS Cup Playoffs: New York Red Bulls 1-1 New England Revolution after thrilling first half

    Nov 23, 2014, 2:52 PM EST

    Bradley Wright-Phillips, Bill Hamid Bradley Wright-Phillips, Bill Hamid

    The first 45 at Red Bull Arena was wild. Take a deep breath and relive the thrilling actions, goals and all.

  18. Watch Live: New York Red Bulls vs New England Revolution (Lineups)

    Nov 23, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Jones AP

    New England is undefeated in 11 straight matches with Jermaine Jones in the lineup.

  19. Video: Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool needs to “become a team”

    Nov 23, 2014, 1:29 PM EST

    Rodgers AP

    Brendan Rodgers was quite downtrodden following Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace, the club’s third defeat in a row.

  20. Hull City 1-2 Tottenham: Ramirez red ruins early lead as Eriksen wins it

    Nov 23, 2014, 12:55 PM EST

    Spurs Getty Images

    Hull led inside 10 minutes and looked solid on both ends, but a straight red to Gaston Ramirez for a kick at Jan Vertonghen, and Christian Eriksen completes the Spurs comeback a minute before full time.

Featured video

Week 12: PL Sunday recap