In the history of the European Cup/Champions League, there have been only three occasions that one of the finalists was in a final held at their home stadium: 1957 (Real Madrid – beat Fiorentina), 1964 (Inter – beat Benfica), and 1984 (AS Roma – lost to Liverpool).
Real Madrid fell just short last season when they fell in the semis to eventual champions Barcelona, and this year, it’s Bayern Munich who are within reach of adding their name to that short list. If they reach the semis, they’ll be underdogs against Real, who are all but assured of a berth in the last four after last night’s 3-0 away win over APOEL Nicosia. But they’re undisputed favorites in their quarterfinal tie against Marseille, who come into tonight’s first leg in absolutely horrific form. Didier Deschamps’ side had lost seven matches in a row in all competitions before Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Nice, were shocked in the Coupe de France quarterfinals by third division strugglers Quevilly, and presently sit ninth in the Ligue 1 table, 20 points behind leaders PSG.
Yet they’re somehow in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, because they had the good fortune of drawing another struggling top team, Inter, in the round of 16. Marseille eked out a 1-0 win at the Stade Velodrome in the first leg, thanks to Andre Ayew’s late, late winner, and that narrow win would prove to be all the difference. In the second leg, extra time looked to be on the cards when Diego Milito put Inter 1-0 up on 75, but in the second minute of injury time, Brandao struck to give Marseille a priceless away goal. Inter would win on the night 2-1, thanks to a meaningless penalty at the death, but Marseille edged the tie on away goals thanks to those late heroics by the Brazilian, who had only entered the match in the 88th minute.
Talent certainly isn’t an issue for Marseille, with top-class attacking players like Ayew, Loic Remy, and Mathieu Valbuena in their side, but their recent form can’t be overlooked. But even if their performances against Bayern far exceed their recent showings, it’s tough to see their run continuing past this point. A win at home in tonight’s first leg wouldn’t be an overwhelming surprise, but holding that advantage at the Allianz Arena is a task that would be beyond them.
Sure, they’ve been awful away from home recently, with five defeats and the draw at Nice in their last six away matches in all competitions, but that statement has less to do with their form and more to do with the quality of Bayern.
Bayern may well go a second straight season without a Bundesliga title, as they’re five points behind reigning champions Borussia Dortmund with only seven matches left, but there are only a few teams in Europe that are as good or better – or more merciless when they‘re on top of their game. They finished top of a difficult Champions League group that included Manchester City and Napoli, and after surprisingly losing the away leg of their round of 16 tie against FC Basel, crushed the Swiss side 7-0 in the second leg.
Marseille are going to have their hands full with Bayern striker Mario Gomez, who scored four of the seven goals against Basel and has 36 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions this season. They’re also going to have to deal with the dynamic duo of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, who have few equals when they’re at their best.
Marseille’s defense won’t be able to shut down Bayern, and as such, they’re going to have to produce on the attacking end if they want to have a chance to do the unlikely. As mentioned, they have firepower in their ranks, but that firepower hasn’t produced much lately, and that won’t cut it against a Bayern side that can run rampant on any given day. Bayern have the chance to accomplish a rare feat, and while the next round could be where those hopes end, this round will not be.
For Our US Readers
Can’t get out to watch the match live? Pause today’s UEFA Champions League viewing experience until you can enjoy it the way it’s meant to be: with friends and a Heineken down at the pub.
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Trying it out is easy:
• Visit keepitlegendary.com.
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• Go to the “Keep It Legendary” tab and begin…
Games being replayed at 8pm ET tonight, cheers!