Bayern Munich v Porto
Tuesday April 21, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1
After Saturday’s hard-fought 2-0 win at Hoffenheim, Pep Guardiola sat his Bayern Munich players down in the dressing-room and gave a long impassioned speech. The Catalan coach knows this game against Porto represents the most important moment of Bayern’s season, and arguably it’s the most pivotal match of Guardiola’s tenure in Bavaria. If another Champions League campaign ends before the final, the imminent acquisition of another German title will be seen by many as a hollow triumph.
Last week’s 3-1 defeat at the Dragao was a horror show, perhaps Bayern’s worst display of the campaign. There were sloppy errors galore, and all three Porto goals could have been prevented. The fact the German champions are still in the tie is a blessing.
Although Bayern have suffered with injury problems all season – a situation which led to the explosive departure of veteran club doctor Hans Muller-Wolfahrt – it’s worth bearing in mind that they can still field an incredibly strong team for this game. Skipper Philipp Lahm says he’s recovered from a stomach virus, and his midfield cohort Bastian Schweinsteiger has also returned to training. Rampaging left-back Juan Bernat, who has been one of Bayern’s best players this season, should be able to shake off the effects of a disgusting challenge from Hoffenheim’s Sebastian Rudy.
Although Bayern’s defence was shown to be vulnerable in Portugal last week, other parts of the team are still functioning well. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller have started to dovetail beautifully in attack, and between them they’ve been involved in 11 of Bayern’s last 12 Bundesliga goals. They’re ready to fire the bullets, and the man supplying the ammunition could well be the graceful Thiago Alcantara, who has hit the ground running since his return from injury.
If either Schweinsteiger or Lahm miss out, Sebastian Rode would be an adequate replacement. Rode scored a stunning goal in the weekend’s win, producing his best performance in a Bayern shirt.
If you wanted to make a case for Porto reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2004, it wouldn’t be hard to do. The Dragons were sensational last week, punishing every error that Bayern made to carve out a 3-1 advantage. Julen Lopetegui’s men are unbeaten in the Champions League this season, and they have won 17 of their 22 matches in 2015.
Porto certainly have the tools to complete the job and reach the last four. Colombian striker Jackson Martinez ran the Bayern defence ragged last week, while two-goal hero Ricardo Quaresma combines delightful technique with experience. Algerian international Yacine Brahimi adds unpredictability to the attack, and the midfield contains clever players like Casemiro and Oliver Torres, who Lopetegui knew well from his time coaching in Spain.
One problem for Porto is the suspensions to full-backs Alex Sandro and Danilo. Bayern are a huge threat in wide areas, where Guardiola loves to create overloads. Porto have a clean bill of health apart from that, with Martinez and former Barcelona wideman Cristian Tello expected to shake off minor knocks. Tello may struggle to regain his spot, after Quaresma made such an impact in the first leg.
Porto were able to rest a host of players for the weekend’s 1-0 win against Academica, so they should be fresh for what’s likely to be their toughest mental test of the campaign.
Bayern have won 17 of their 19 games in all competitions at the Allianz Arena, and their only failures were a 1-1 draw with Schalke in which they had defender Jerome Boateng sent off early on, and a 2-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach, which was simply the perfect away display by the Foals. That record is reflected by the price of [1.36] for the home win.
For reasons I’ll soon explain, I think Bayern will get through this, but it is by no means certain. If Porto catch Bayern on the break as they push for the goals they need, we could see a repeat of last season’s semi-final against Real Madrid, which saw Bayern thrashed on home soil. I think [1.36] is too short considering the tightrope that Bayern will be walking, and layers will be rubbing their hands with anticipation.
I’ve been commentating on Bayern matches for a couple of seasons now under Pep Guardiola, and they are capable of extraordinary things. Although the injury problems are an issue, the team they will put out is capable of getting the 2-0 win they need, especially if Muller and Lewandowski continue their superb telepathy. Muller has warned his teammates against flooding forward with abandon, and I think Bayern will be wary of the damage Porto could do on the counter.
Porto have the edge, and a counter-attack or a set piece could help take the tie away from Bayern, but I still think [2.06] is an attractive price for the hosts to reach the last four. Porto are a well-coached and exciting outfit, but they don’t have the same quality or experience as Bayern. The core of this Bayern side helped Germany to win the World Cup in the summer, so they have shown they can perform under the most extreme pressure.
Bayern need a 2-0 win to qualify, while a 3-1 victory would force the tie into extra time. 13 of their 17 home wins this season have come via a margin of two goals or greater. It’ll be tight, but I think Pep’s boys can do it.
If Bayern are going to pull off a great escape, recent form suggests it’ll be either Lewandowski or Muller who leads the charge. I’d recommend sticking half a point each on them in the First Goalscorer market at [4.7] and [5.1] respectively.
Back Bayern Munich To Qualify at [2.06]
Back Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller in the First Goalscorer market at [4.7] and [5.1] respectively (half a point each)