Before a 3-3 home draw with Hoffenheim in late March, Bayern Munich were being talked about as the invincible team, with a record points tally in the Bundesliga and a retention of the Champions League trophy anticipated. Similarly, prior to a 2-1 home defeat by Sunderland in mid-April, Chelsea were considered a decent bet for both domestic and European success. Now both managers must reflect on what might have been after their respective midweek eliminations from the Champions League.
For Bayern manager ‘Pep’ Guardiola, the resounding 4-0 second leg home defeat by Real Madrid in the Champions League Semi-Final must have constituted a real shock to the system, but after two recent lack-lustre league defeats, perhaps an attitude of carelessness has crept into the Bayern play. Guardiola still insists on a passing and possession game for his players but as in his days with Barcelona, it may also be that the top European teams are now more able to adjust to such fairly predictable tactics.
Bayern may still spread fear into most German teams in the Bundesliga but the challenge for Guardiola in the coming seasons is to prove that he can adapt his game plan to cope with teams adopting a quality defensive unit. Until then, he will never become a Munich legend and may fail to emulate the success of his predecessor Jupp Heynckes.
Meanwhile at Stamford Bridge, a 3-1 defeat by Atletico Madrid appears to have condemned Jose Mourinho to another season without silverware after his Real Madrid team failed in both domestic and European competition last season. Unless Liverpool and Manchester City fail spectacularly in their final Premier League matches, Chelsea appear destined not win title for which they appeared favourites just a few weeks previously.
Chelsea have proved more effective this season when adopting defensive tactics with swift counter-attacks as Mourinho bemoans the lack of quality in attack. A very late winner by Demba Ba against PSG enabled Chelsea to qualify for the Champions League Semi-Final, but second half displays against both Sunderland and Atletico suggests that the London team are still work in progress. During those periods, the Blues were unable to breach a stubborn defensive unit and were then victims of swift offensive play.
Winning free-kicks on the flanks to create dangerous set-piece opportunities appeared to be most viable tactic on Wednesday evening to cap another frustrating European night for Mourinho. Yet with Mohamed Saleh and Nemanja Matic allowed to play Champions League football for Chelsea next season and the expected addition of quality attacking personnel, the Blues may yet provide a worthwhile trophy for their under pressure manager during subsequent campaigns.
Next season may indeed be pivotal moments for both Mourinho and Guardiola as they seek to establish an ultimate legacy at their respective clubs.
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