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Bayern in Europe: Munich Now Predicitions 

After winning an historic treble last season, Bayern Munich have started their 2013/14 campaign at an inevitably slower pace. On Tuesday, the defence of their UEFA Champions League trophy begins and Munich Now’s sports writers got together to discuss their chances.

The question on everyone’s lips is whether Bayern can defend their title or not. Can they?

Tony Mayger (TM): Yes, they can. They must. If you mean can they “retain” their title then yes, there is a good chance because they have only added to their squad and not really lost anyone. Perhaps years of perceived underachievement have fired them up to keep winning and prove their doubters wrong?

Jonathan Harding (JH): Oddly enough, despite their quality I’m not sure they can. The early signs in Guardiola’s reign as Bayern manager have been concerning as his tinkering reaches worrying levels. At the moment, it’s good enough to win (most) Bundesliga games but Europe is different.

Carsten Arndt (CA): They definitely have the potential to, but not this year. It’s no coincidence that no team has defended the title before. They are missing an extra two or three percent of greed. Sometimes you need to suffer a bitter defeat before you win a title.

Mark Lovell (ML): I do not think Bayern will win it this time around. I think their defensive unit could leak goals in a crucial match. And scoring goals could also be a problem in the latter stages.

No team has defended the UCL title before. What would it mean for Bayern, and more importantly for Guardiola if they do so?

TM: It’s a huge boost of credibility for Pep if he does win it. He’s stepped into big shoes at FCB and has a lot to prove. I still think he’s nothing special considering he’s never had to earn his place at a top team after work with smaller clubs.

JH: If he does win it, he will be hailed as one of the greatest and not simply because no one has done it before either. To take a plan from one club, adapt it to another and win Europe’s top trophy in the space of one season would be very special indeed. He still has a lot to prove considering he hopped from one European powerhouse to another.

CA: For a club like Bayern Munich there would be no major shift if they didn’t win. They are one of the most successful and well-financed clubs ever and defending the tile would only confirm that. For Guardiola it would be very important though. He would prove that he can achieve success without Barcelona and Leo Messi.

ML: At the time of his appointment Bayern were enduring a trophy drought and were into their third season without silverware. That said, few expected Jupp Heynckes to sign off with a treble in his retirement season and clearly expectations have been lifted a notch with Pep Guardiola’s arrival in Munich. Obviously, if the Champions League was retained it would be an historic achievement both for Bayern and the ‘new messiah’ Guardiola.

More European celebrations for Thomas and Co.? Photo: DPA

Is consistent European success the main reason for Pep Guardiola’s appointment?

TM: Heynckes proved that FCB didn’t need a massive name to succeed. They probably realised that when they appointed Pep and Heynckes went on and won everything. I think he’s still a gamble but the fact he has “been there and done it” with Barcelona will add to the confidence the players have in him. They could have got Mourinho and been in the same position.

JH: I certainly believe so. Bayern are always favourites to win the Bundesliga, and their signings in the summer have furthered the gap between them and the majority of other teams in the league. What Heynckes started was something they want Guardiola to continue. They want to be as successful, if not better than the team of the early 1970s. If they succeed they will be the greatest Bayern side ever, which certainly seems motivation enough.

CA: No. It was just the fact that the supposed best team in the world had the chance to sign the supposed best coach in the world.

ML: Felix Magath won two doubles at Bayern and it wasn’t enough to save his job. Consistent success, especially in the bread and butter of the Bundesliga, is a given. He will also be expected to deliver the CL title within his three-year tenure. Having a global icon like Guardiola at Bayern can only help spread a positive message, not just on the European stage but as Bayern boost their brand into the burgeoning Asian, African and South American markets.

Can Keisuke Honda help CSKA Moscow to an upset against Bayern? Photo: DPA

Which teams stand in Bayern’s way and why?

TM: Real and Barcelona, although Juventus have some strength and might sneak in under the radar. No Premier League club is good enough to match them but Chelsea could always upset the apple cart.

JH: The usual suspects of Real Madrid and Barcelona of course. Chelsea are always a mystery with José Mourinho in charge but out of all the sides, I think it is Madrid that pose the greatest threat. It would also be interesting to see Guardiola face his former club, one in a similarly transitional phase.

CA: There are a few teams that have the chance to win the title every season. Firstly, the two Spanish teams Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. They have unbelievable squads. You just have to take a look at Real´s attacking midfield now: Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and Gareth Bale. That’s real attacking power. And Barca are a favourite quite simply because they have Messi, who now has a new brilliant strike-partner in Neymar. I believe that Juventus also have a great chance this year. They are very disciplined, have a very meticulous and charismatic coach and in Arturo Vidal they have the best defensive midfielder in the world at the moment. In any case, Bayern won’t win it this year. I know this isn´t a popular statement to make in Munich, but I think Borussia Dortmund will win the cup. They suffered a bitter defeat in the last year´s final, which might have been different had they scored one or two times in the early stages. They will be motivated to win this title.

ML: Bayern are favourites alongside a whole host of teams that can win Europe’s most prestigious club trophy. The elite of the European club rankings - Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United will all be wounded after missing out last time. You would also be foolish to discount Borussia Dortmund, who will again hope to fly under the radar all the way to the final.

Does not winning the tournament constitute a poor outing from Bayern?

TM: It depends if they lose a close final or get knocked out in the first round.

JH: No. Their squad might be the best in Europe but the fact no one has defended the competition before speaks for itself. A poor outing would be not making the semi finals though.

CA: No. You can´t expect to win the Champions League title every season. The best teams in Europe are playing in this tournament so just one bad day can mean the end of your chances. If they make the semi-finals, then the campaign will have been successful.

ML: No. Realistically, the Munich hierarchy would be delighted with adding another Champions League trophy anytime during Pep’s tenure. Bayern had a long wait between CL titles - Wembley 2013 came 12 years after their last success under Ottmar Hitzfeld.

How far will Bayern go in the Champions League this season?

TM: At least the quarter finals.

JH: I think they will come undone against Madrid in the semi finals.

CA: As I said in the question before, it would be an acceptable season if they made the semi-finals. But it will be Barcelona or Dortmund that will beat them.

ML: Bayern will coast through to the knockout stages in February 2014 in a group containing Russian representatives CSKA Moscow and Czech champions Viktoria Pilsen. Likely challengers for top of the group will come from England’s big-spending Manchester City, who have previously flattered to deceive on Europe’s biggest stage. In the last 16, as in any competition, you need the luck of the draw to avoid in-form sides and some potential banana skins. Bayern have reached the final three times in the last four years, so it is not unthinkable for the record German champions to reach the final again in Lisbon next year.

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