The German champions strolled into the Champions League quarter-finals, but their 7-0 win over 10-man Shakhtar Donetsk does them no favours
First, there was the Champions League group stage that was meant to push them but never did. Then there came the Borussia Dortmund title challenge that ended before it had even begun.
And on Wednesday, Bayern Munich were robbed of another chance to measure their progress as they spanked Shakhtar Donetsk 7-0 to reach the last eight in Europe. There is every chance that Pep Guardiola’s men will arrive at the semi-final stage completely undercooked again, just as they were against Real Madrid last season.
This was meant to be different to the standard fare that had been served up by 99 per cent of Bayern’s opponents. After holding the five-time European champions to a 0-0 draw in the home leg, many expected Shakhtar to finally test the big red machine.
Instead, Olexandr Kucher’s third-minute red card for a foul on Mario Gotze put paid to any hope of the second leg at the Allianz Arena being any kind of contest. The referee had quite rightly pointed to the spot, but a sending-off seemed harsh. Realistically, there was never likely to be a way back for Shakhtar even with 11 men.
Thereafter Bayern just kept helping themselves, even despite seeing both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery limp off. The Dutchman suffered a slight hamstring pull with his side 1-0 up. At 4-0, Ribery followed him to the bench after receiving a kick on the ankle. Neither seemed serious enough to rule them out for lengthy periods, but this was the kind of cakewalk that didn’t require a full-strength Roten.
The problem now for Guardiola is that his players are fast approaching the business end having had no chance to put together a convincing portfolio.
Last season they swept aside a 10-man Arsenal before humouring David Moyes’ broken Manchester United only to race through the gears when the tie appeared in the balance. In Germany they were even more convincing in their dominance, leaving them completely untouched before facing Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.
History is fast threatening to repeat itself in 2014-15, with the Roten crying out for the opportunity to test their mettle against different systems and approaches. What they need is to find out how they react in several alternate game situations. What they have been handed is far too many lop-sided training sessions.
Nineteen times in Champions League history they have benefitted from an opposition player being sent off – trailing only Barcelona’s 29 occasions. But the number of times they have been handed 70 per cent or more of possession is rising fast, and it helps nobody.
Shakhtar’s defeat – however much conditioned by Kucher’s early bath – was ignominious and unambitious. Bayern’s dominance was uninformative and unexciting.
Not since May 2014 have the German champions been truly tested in a serious environment, and no amount of 7-0 walkovers will help them prepare for the make or break fixtures to come. At a time when they should be hitting their peak in the face of a run of top-class encounters, they are enjoying nothing more than an elongated pre-season full of short-sided training matches.
Are Bayern the real deal? Nobody truly knows.