In one of the biggest ties of this season’s Champions League round of 16, Chelsea face off with Bavarian giants Bayern Munich in a repeat of the famous 2011-12 final, which ended with the Blues winning the trophy after a dramatic penalty shoot-out.This time though, there can be no doubt that the reigning Bundesliga champions will be the hot favourites to advance into the quarter-finals.
They’ve recovered from a sticky patch earlier in the season – one that cost Niko Kovac his job as manager – to regain the top spot in the Bundesliga, and they’ve been on irresistible form during European competition this season anyway.
But that doesn’t mean that Frank Lampard’s Blues can’t spring a major upset by dumping the 5-time winners out of Europe’s biggest competition. Here are 3 reasons why Chelsea could defeat Bayern Munich in the Champions League’s round of 16.
#1 Lampard’s young Blues are fearless
Much has been made of Frank Lampard’s use of younger players since taking over Chelsea in the summer of 2019, and while it’s true that part of his reliance on academy products has been down to the recently-lifted transfer ban imposed by FIFA, the truth is that he may well have introduced the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham into the Blues’ first team anyway.
Regardless of the reasoning, it’s hard to deny the impact of youth on Chelsea’s current fortunes. Sure, results haven’t always gone their way this season and the Blues have fallen victim to some poor losses against sides like Bournemouth and West Ham, but at times we’ve seen them thrive – and one thing that’s been notable is their utterly fearless nature.
Lampard’s young guns overcame a far more experienced Tottenham side with aplomb in December – despite their London rivals being managed by the wily Jose Mourinho – and notably came from behind to defeat Arsenal in the same month. And while their European form hasn’t been perfect, Blues fans have been treated to some outstanding games.
Top of that list would be Chelsea’s crazy 4-4 draw with Ajax, a match that saw them come from behind after trailing 1-4 to pick up an all-important point. The Blues could even have won that game had Cezar Azpilicueta’s late winner not been controversially disallowed by VAR. And while detractors would point that Bayern are a better team than Ajax, you can never count out a side who don’t know when they’re beaten – something that Lampard’s Blues have shown on multiple occasions during this campaign.
#2 Bayern have been beaten recently by sides who can turn up the heat
Even their biggest detractors would probably admit that Bayern Munich don’t have all that many weaknesses; like all of Europe’s giants, Die Roten have a squad filled to the brim with superstars in all positions, with world-class players like Robert Lewandowski, Philippe Coutinho, Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba all at their disposal.
However, every side has a soft spot, and for Hansi Flick’s side, it appears to be against opponents who can come out and hit them hard and fast with a lot of intensity, not allowing the Bavarians to settle into their usual rhythm. That’s how Liverpool were able to overcome them in last season’s Champions League – with an impressive 1-3 win at the Allianz Arena – and it’s also how the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach defeated them in Bundesliga action this season.
Essentially, to beat Bayern, you’ve got to press them hard, not let them impose their will on the game, and most importantly, you have to create plenty of chances. It’s notable for instance that in all of their Bundesliga losses this season, Bayern had more possession than their opponents, but still gave away a minimum of 7 shots on goal.
Chelsea meanwhile have notably averaged a high number of shots on goal in their Champions League games thus far – 18 – and while they haven’t really bossed possession at any stage, it suggests that they could attack with the intensity needed to defeat Flick’s side. They’ll need their big players like Tammy Abraham, Willian and Mateo Kovacic to be on their best form – but it’s definitely possible for them to do it.
#3 Question marks over Flick’s future might affect Bayern’s performance
One area in which Chelsea might have a slight advantage over Bayern in this tie is that they know exactly where they’re heading in the future. Boss Frank Lampard is under a long-term deal at Stamford Bridge, and most reports suggest that however the Blues finish in the current campaign, Roman Abramovich is willing to keep faith with his former star player.
The same can’t be said in Munich. Bayern fired Niko Kovac on November 3rd following their stunning 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt, but while interim boss Hansi Flick has done a tremendous job since – losing just twice and picking up 8 wins to take the Bavarians back to the top of the Bundesliga while also easing into the Champions League’s round of 16, he remains only an interim manager.
Will the club appoint him on a full-time basis? The answer at the current time is anyone’s guess – and his future may well hinge on this tie with Chelsea. So while Bayern’s players appear to be happy with Flick as manager, the truth is that there’s a lot more pressure on him in this tie than there is on Lampard.
So could that pressure get to the German boss – causing him to give out the wrong signals to his side or deploy them with the wrong gameplan? It’s definitely possible. History usually suggests that the ‘interim manager jump’ only lasts for so long – look at Santiago Solari at Real Madrid for instance, or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after his Paris heroics with Manchester United. So perhaps Flick’s effect at Bayern could end with this tie against Chelsea.