It took seven years for Bayern to break the semifinals barrier. But now, and after a tough game against a commendable Lyon side, die Roten have a place in the final against Paris St.-Germain.
Bayern have not only booked a ticket for the Sunday showdown. They have taken the penultimate step towards a second treble. Such an achievement would be absolutely indescribable, if not unprecedented (Barcelona clinched a second treble of their own in 2015 after the success of 2009). But let’s talk about this game in particular.
Anyone who watched the Saturday quarterfinal where Lyon nudged Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City out of Europe knew Rudi García’s side meant business. It was a Simeone-esque display, yes, but also one where García showed a profound understanding of his contender. His 5-3-2 eliminated Gabriel Jesus’ influence in the game. It destroyed Guardiola’s attempts to attack down the wings. And coupled with the Catalan’s own misreading of the game, it neutralised any midfield superiority City could have tried to attain.
García brought similar weapons to fight Hansi Flick. Lyon’s forwards knew to search for the defenders’ backs. They spotted gaps where long balls could leave them one-on-one against Manuel Neuer. Indeed, Memphis Depay got such a chance early on. Only Neuer’s expert closing down and Depay’s own botched finish prevented a goal.
García’s men slowly diluted away as Bayern gained confidence and terrain. However, they are a formidable side. Their story is similar to Bayern’s this season. García replaced Sylvinho in the dugout after a dismal start to the campaign. The managerial change inspired a turnaround that ended with OL in the Champions League semifinal. Remarkable.
It’s not often that I feel compelled to pay more attention to a French team. After Lyon’s participation in this year’s Champions League, that is exactly what I’ll do.
Gnabry, mein Gott
You may think it’s a bit stale to still make fun of Tony Pullis when talking about Serge Gnabry. Alas, it’s not. Gnabry, the man Pullis said wasn’t good enough for his West Brom side, scored two goals in a Champions League semifinal. I don’t need to tell you how much of a cracker the first one was.
Gnabry’s form this season has been scintillating. He has been Robert Lewandowski’s trailer in the goals+assists department. Diego Latorre from Fox Sports (always a voice to pay attention to), commended Serge’s ability to read the game and apply an age old principle of football: Llegar es mejor que estar. Getting there is better than being there. Gnabry spots a space, takes a look and does the rest.
A winger in form is a good omen for Bayern.
I stole that term from Twitter, by the way.
If this season has showed us anything, it’s that Hansi Flick is the complete package. The man not only brought a team in shambles back from the brink. He gave them wings, a robust tactical playbook and hunger. Oh, hunger. That invaluable asset Pep Guardiola couldn’t quite keep alive during his tenure. It didn’t take a debacle à la 2012 to inject some ambition into this squad. But it came close.
PSG won’t be an easy opponent to face. Then again, neither were Dortmund in 2013. And if Bayern do, we will be able to pop a trio of beers open to celebrate a new treble.
Here’s hoping we do.