May 24, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT
Bayern Munich are set for their third Champions League final in four years, and while they haven’t won it since 2001, victory Saturday would firmly cement them as the team to beat for a year.
But many will ask the question, if victory finds its way to the Bavarians – will they be the team to beat for a long time?
Barcelona have been that club for a number of years, thanks to the consistent winning attitude Pep Guardiola brought to the Camp Nou 2008. Barca have always been a force, but since Guardiola’s taking charge and Lionel Messi’s emergence as the consensus best player in the world, it’s been a “Barcelona or the field” mentality.
So what did Bayern do to the Catalan giants with Pep gone and Messi hurt? Just beat them 7-0 on aggregate. While Messi is obviously going to be around for a while longer, the question “are Barcelona still the team to beat” is now more valid than ever.
Sure, this is all contingent on Bayern winning this weekend. If they don’t, no matter what they do in the next calendar year, the past will dominate the conversation about the club, not the future.
If they can lift the trophy this season, after winning the Bundesliga by a staggering 25 points and shattering the league’s points record with 91, it could be nowhere but up for Bayern.
The league has been no match for Munich this season. Dortmund have been the only squad to give the Bavarians any trouble whatsoever this season, and they still haven’t been able to beat Bayern, drawing two league ties and losing two cup finals.
Their league success this season: 29 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss. Two of the four draws, like I mentioned, were to fellow Champions League finalists. The loss came wayyyy back in October to Bayer Leverkusen who finished in third, a measly point behind Dortmund. And they haven’t lost in the league cup, beating Dortmund in the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal and scheduled for the finals against Stuttgart on June 1.
Their Champions League success this season: they blasted through the group stage of the Champions League, scoring 15 goals and conceding 7 (3 of those in a silly loss at BATE Borisov with the club’s best-ever start to a season on the line). Their one slip up in the knockout round came in a 2-0 loss to Arsenal in the second leg at the Emirates, but still advanced on away goals. They torched Juventus 4-0 on aggregate – the same Juventus that ran through Serie A this season relatively uncontested. Then came Barcelona – and there went Barcelona, 7-0.
Following hypothetical victory this weekend, they’ll inject even more talent and knowledge into the club. That man Pep who brought Barcelona to heights previously unknown is set to take charge next season, Mario Gotze has already completed his defection from Borussia Dortmund, and Robert Lewandowski is rumored to be following suit.
Could anyone beat them? Take a club that’s achieved what they have this year – possibly a treble and a ridiculous league points total – and add the best managerial mind in the game, a 20-year-old German sensation, and one of the deadliest strikers in the game.
Is that even fair? Other top clubs may very well find out in the years to come that it’s not.
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