'Mighty Munich' turn the tables as they home inon dream night

A month ago the critics were rounding on Bayern. Now they are Europe's red-hot team, on track for the final. By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Europe's form team continue their Champions League campaign this evening, resuming their march to a dream night at the Allianz Arena in May. No, this does not refer to Barcelona – as good as they are – and their quest to be the first team to retain the European Cup since 1990. It is Bayern Munich – the best non-Spanish club left in the last eight, probably Europe's finest team beyond the big two of Barça and Real Madrid, and almost certainly the continent's red-hot team.

Jupp Heynckes' side have been on a remarkable run, responding to accusations that their season was drifting beyond their control with three furious displays that have yielded 20 goals and football that would grace and maybe even win a Clasico. Marseilles beware.

The run started with a home Bundesliga game against Hoffenheim on 10 March. Bayern won 7-1. Three days later Basle came to the Allianz Arena, with Bayern worried after losing the first leg. But Basle were slashed to pieces, beaten by a 7-0 scoreline that almost felt like an understatement. Next up was a 6-0 win at Hertha Berlin, before two rather more modest wins, one on penalties.

It may sound surprising, but immediately before the goalfest Heynckes was under pressure. Bayern had slipped seven points behind the Bundesliga leaders, Borussia Dortmund, and had lost their Champions League first leg in Switzerland.

"We sorted things out together," said the French winger Franck Ribéry, looking back on his team's transformation. "Bayern are a huge club and as soon as we don't win one or two matches, there's lots of pressure from outside. But we were able to react and rediscover our form from the first half of the season. We're playing like a team again."

The transformation has been astonishing. "This came after a bit of a crisis time," Ben Gladwell, a German football journalist, told i. "There was a lot of pressure on everybody, and they just seemed to explode in that game against Hoffenheim. Arjen Robben hit form, Ribéry hit form at the same time and the Germany striker Mario Gomez scored almost at will. Every time he touched the ball in the six-yard box it was a goal."

Those three players, with Thomas Müller, make up a forward line that combines variety with exceptionally high quality.

As Manchester United might agree, after he knocked them out in the Champions League quarter-finals two years ago, Robben, when fit, is arguably second only to Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's best wide player. His recent improvement, after a poor spell, has been as important to Bayern's sudden charge as anything else.

Tonight's match is in Marseilles, where Ribéry used to play, and he is keen to remind the French media what he can do. "It irritates me," he said of coverage he receives in his home country. "It should not happen like that, they get carried away. It should be as it is in Munich. In Germany, I'm happy, I'm having the time of my life."