Munich, May 2 (IANS) Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola knows fully well that it will be a matter of life and death in the Champions League football semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid here on Tuesday.
Bayern lost the first leg 1-0 away at Madrid after failing to penetrate a stubborn, disciplined Atletico defence who were more keen to defend rather than move forward, reports Xinhua.
Guardiola was heavily criticised after the match for his, what the media called, strange decisions to drop striker Thomas Muller and winger Franck Ribery from the starting line-up.
They were brought in the second half after Bayern conceded what turnd out to be the only goal of the match but it wasn’t enough for the experienced duo to make an impact on the match.
It can be taken for granted that the 45-year-old Spaniard would sell his soul to win the Champions League with the German giants. He has made some mistakes which explains why he has not bagged the biggest prize in his three years at Bayern.
He lost in the semi-finals in 2013-14 and 2014-15 to Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, respectively.
Those defeats could explain why Guardiola does not appear to as sovereign in some of his decisions.
He shaped Barcelona’s golden era and then took over Bayern to prove his special qualities as a coach. But he is now trying to get rid of the “Spanish shadow” that threatens to mar his time at Munich.
The two lost semi-finals against Spanish opposition which has had an intensive emotional effect on Guardiola. Guardiola was stubborn and stuck to his gut feeling while taking major decisions.
He is now being criticised for arbitrarily taking decisions after it backfired in the 0-1 loss to Atletico.
Bayern lacked ideas and striker Robert Lewandowski was a forlorn figure up front in the match. “We’ve lost the ease we once had,” said Bayern striker Mueller after the match.
Guardiola, presumably, will have learned his lesson. Mueller and Ribery, if he can recover from a minor injury in time, will return to the fold.
Additionally hen had to decide whether key defender Jerome Boateng is ready for a return to the team after being out for two months with injury.
Disappointment would be gigantic if Bayern gets eliminated despite them poised to win their fourth consecutive Bundesliga title.
The club has also posted its best profit in history so far and has expensively assembled a formidable squad in terms of star power, variability and tactics.
To fail would mean, it is the third consecutive time that a Spanish club has thwarted Germany’s top team, which would convince his German detractors that he hasn’t been fully successful in all aspects of his job at Bayern Munich.
“His dream from the very beginning has been, to win the treble with Bayern Munich. Therefore he will have to win the game on Tuesday,” said Bayern Munich’s former president Uli Hoeness on Sunday.
Guardiola and Bayern was no love affair. It was a professional collaboration but not an emotional one. Guardiola quickly became aware that he could not deliver the emotional needs of a club like Bayern.
And Bayern became aware that Guardiola was not going to change into a people’s and player’s hero like a father could for his kids. Guardiola came to Munich as a temporary worker not for a life-long marriage.
Guardiola will have to break down Atletico’s outstanding defence and they will need unpredictable characters like Mueller and Ribery to make it happen. They need to be patient to score.
“Everyone wanted to kill me after the first match, but I’m not dead yet,” said Guardiola on Sunday.
The Spaniard will have to prove he is clever enough to take advantage of his last chance at Bayern. The chance to show he can be truly successful in his career away from Spain.
It might be a crucial game for the club both in terms of the season and its Champions League dreams in particular. But for the football coach Guardiola it might be much more.