Mar 13, 2015

    Bayern on right track to legendary season


    BAYERN Munich could be forgiven for sneaking a peek towards the Champions League final in Berlin in June, after their 7-0 destruction of Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday sent them through to the last eight.

    The five-time European champions, who last won in 2013 and played in the 2010 and 2012 finals, were in a class of their own as they equalled the biggest win in knockout stage history of the Champions League.

    "We desperately want to go to Berlin," said defender Jerome Boateng, who was on target on Wednesday. "We will have to see who we will face in the last eight and it is still a long way until the final."

    Bayern played the 2012 final in their home stadium, losing to Chelsea on penalties. This year's final in Berlin is their chance to make amends with a win on German soil.

    They rightly count themselves among the select group of favourites for the title, having had another extremely consistent season both at home and in Europe.

    In the Champions League, they have yet to let in a goal in four home games, scoring 13 times themselves.

    Coach Pep Guardiola had said before Wednesday's second leg that he was aware of what to expect if his team were eliminated.

    He can expect even more pressure for the quarter-finals, with expectations now sky-high in Munich.

    The domestic league title looks set to stay in Munich with Bayern 11 points clear at the top, while a German Cup defence is also on track.

    But it is the European trophy that Bayern want to lift again, and that Guardiola needs in order to turn his second season at the Bavarians into a potentially legendary one.

    With title holders Real Madrid showing none of their dominance of last season, former winners Chelsea eliminated and only Barcelona in the kind of form that could seriously threaten Bayern over two games, the enthusiasm is understandable.

    With captain Philipp Lahm set to return from a broken ankle, Medhi Benatia fit again and defender Holger Badstuber in fine form after almost two years out, Bayern will be even stronger in the closing stages of all three competitions.

    Long-term injury absentees Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez are also working towards their return to action, further boosting Guardiola's options.

    "We have earned the great respect of football-playing Europe," Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told reporters. "Now I don't think we are on a club's wish list for the last-eight draw."