As the football season draws into its final quarter, many leagues are beginning to present teams who you expect to be champions. Italy’s Serie A sees Juventus 16 points clear with only twelve games left to play while in France, Paris St Germain could go 20 points clear of second placed Lille if they win their game in hand.
This being said, there are also leagues where the conclusion is anyone’s guess – no more so than the Premier League and the German Bundesliga. Current champions Manchester City regained top spot for the first time this year when Liverpool failed to beat Merseyside rivals Everton last weekend, although the gap is only one point so there is still all to play for. In Germany however, it is even closer. Bayern recorded their fourth straight league win to take them level on points with a Borussia Dortmund side who have only accumulated five points from their last four. This would pose the question regarding the impact the Champions League will have on both Liverpool and Bayern’s tense battles in their respective leagues.
Both sides arguably have strengths and weaknesses to suggest whether the Champions League will hinder their chances of winning the league in their country, but would either side be better off with defeat in Munich on Wednesday?
With the tie so evenly poised following the goalless first leg draw at Anfield, the onus is ever so slightly on Bayern, given that they are the home side and only a victory will see them through to the quarter finals- especially if Liverpool were to secure a vital away goal. The history of the two clubs does come into play when considering who wants this more. This is because Bayern have enjoyed much more domestic success than the reds, having won 17 league titles SINCE Liverpool last captured the First Division in 1988. Therefore, Liverpudlians are desperate to reclaim the league in what would be their first ever Premier League title.
The Champions League is supposed to be a competition between the best of the best, meaning the winner is the greatest team in Europe that season. This seems to overshadow a team that wins the league, even if it’s the ‘most competitive league in the world’. Therefore, losing the league to Dortmund could be forgiven with a sixth success amongst Europe’s elite. It’s not so simple for Liverpool, given that they were seven points clear at the start of the year, so missing out on the league would be a disappointment regardless of how they fair in the Champions League.
One thing that may make both of these clubs think twice, though, is the stature of teams that have been knocked out already. Last season’s semi finalists Roma were knocked out along with current triple defendants Real Madrid, meaning there will be a new winner in 2019. Serie A leaders Juventus have a tough task ahead in order to overturn a two goal deficit against Atletico Madrid otherwise they will join French high fliers PSG as one of the main favourite to be eliminated. This may prompt five time champions Bayern and Liverpool to believe that if they go for it, they have a fantastic chance of success.
Squad quality is something that has been spoken of by fans and media consistently in regards to these two clubs. Bayern’s squad has an average age of 27.7 years old, which is the oldest in the Bundesliga. This suggests that Bayern have a wealth of experience amongst players like Manuel Neuer, Arjean Robben and Frank Ribery whilst matching them with young talent like Kingsley Coman, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich. Liverpool’s issue regarding their squad is their sheer lack of depth when comparing to the likes of Manchester City & Barcelona. Liverpool’s only flaw could be the sides lack of experience, as the German side is more familiar with this situation, whereas Liverpool have only competed in the Champions League in three of the last nine seasons. Mind you, they did reach the final last season…
Liverpool’s squad depth is more likely to have a negative effect on their title challenge, especially when considering the team they are up against in Manchester City and the players they have at their disposal. Bayern definitely have the bottle and experience to win games and they have the potential to go all the way given the amount of times they have been there before. However, as the season comes to a close, their ageing squad (as they have an older average) may begin to feel their energy drain, especially if they are drawn against a younger team.
Despite these pros and cons for both sides, however, it is unlikely either side would truly want to lose, nor would going out necessarily give them the edge in their domestic leagues. If anything, victory in this match could push the winner on to succeed more than they would have had they been on the end of defeat- for winning is only going to motivate you.
Do you feel that either team would benefit from dropping out of the Champions League or do they have the potential to pull off the double?