Bayern Munich and Juventus: Leading Giants

There is no doubt that FC Bayern Munich and Juventus FC are two of the strongest teams in Europe this season. Even for any person who barely watches football, their strong positions in the Champions League alone demonstrate their places amongst Europe’s elite. Moreover, both are dominating their respective domestic leagues. Bayern are ten points clear of second-placed VfL Wolfsburg; Juventus are enjoying a fourteen point lead over AS Roma.

The Bundesliga is rated the third best league in Europe, whilst Serie A comes fourth. The English Premier League and La Liga remain in first and second respectively. These two leagues are very entertaining, not just because of the number of quality teams in them, but because they are so competitive. Why do Bayern Munich and Juventus hold such a relative stronghold over the other teams in their leagues?

In the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg have been very impressive. Their main striker, Bas Dost, is the fourth top scorer in Germany this season, whilst midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has the most assists of anyone in the league. Bayer Leverkusen, FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach have also caught the attention and have managed to tremble the net of FC Bayern. The only two teams to have defeated Bayern, however, are Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

In Serie A, AS Roma, SS Lazio, and ACF Fiorentina along with Juventus constitute the top four teams. Roma, who finished last year second behind Juventus, are trying to break the dominance of the Old Lady. Lazio have two great goal scorers in Miroslave Klose and Felipe Anderson, who have scored nine goals each this season. Fiorentina are currently competing in the Europa League and have made it to the quarter-finals. Nevertheless, currently, none of the followers can at this stage form a considerable threat to Juventus.

Bayern Munich have had an outstanding season. They have lost just twice in 27 matches, scoring 71 goals and conceding just thirteen. Pep Guardiola, who has been coaching the team since 2013, has lifted a few trophies already with Bayern and has been working with his players very hard, trying new techniques and constantly shifting formation, relying most recently on a 3-4-3 formation. He has worked on improving the team as well as the players individually.

All the Bayern players praise Guardiola highly and express how much they have learned from him. Under him, captain Philipp Lahm has started playing as a midfielder instead of a defender. Bayern’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the best goalkeeper in the world right now, is also a huge part of his team’s success. Whenever his team falls short, he is always reliable and has made some spectacular saves, including in Bayern’s last match against Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB Pokal, where they won on penalties.

Guardiola commented the following just two days ago: “We’ve got the best ‘keeper in the world, so we should just relax and take our penalties”.

Bayern’s team is very well organized and balanced. They have a solid defence, usually consisting of Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng and Mehdi Benatia. They have a fast and deadly attack including the likes of Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Thiago. The list of accomplished players does not stop here. From Spanish legend Xabi Alonso to free-kick master David Alaba to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben, two legends of the game, Bayern are a force to be reckoned with.

The team also has an impressive and long list of reserves in case of injury. Consequently, Bayern right now have little or no weaknesses, yet the team never ceases to find new ways to improve. It could be Guardiola’s perfectionism rubbing off on his players. Isn’t that the key to success? The fact that most teams “park the bus” against Bayern probably helps them concede so few goals. When most rivals decide to place all of their players behind the ball, they are giving themselves very few opportunities to score. No matter how defensively a team sets up, Lewandowski, Robben and co usually find a way through.

Juventus, on the other hand, hold a slightly different key to success. Losing only once in 33 matches, scoring 57 goals and conceding fourteen, they have little competition in a league struggling to match their high standards.

Juventus themselves have world-renowned players at their disposal, like Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo. While both are now reaching the end of their careers, they are still able to produce high quality performances. Buffon, who captains both Juventus and the Italian national team, holds nine Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year Awards and was Ballon d’Or runner-up in 2006. He has been a reliable servant for Juve since 2001. Pirlo, something of a free-kick specialist, is a deep-lying playmaker in midfield and has been playing for Juventus since 2011 after a move from AC Milan.

One of their younger stars is midfielder Paul Pogba. The Frenchman is now one of the most wanted footballers in the world. Big clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona seek him and it seems that it is not long before the Italian club sell him for huge money.

The attack Juventus relies on consists of not only Pogba and Pirlo but also Claudio Marchisio, who is able to play anywhere in midfield, Arturo Vidal, a midfielder with an aggressive and tenacious style of play, Carlos Tevez, Serie A’s top scorer with seventeen goals and also seven assists and Álvaro Morata, the 22-year-old former Real Madrid man with a bright future ahead of him.

They have a strong defence led by Giorgio Chiellini: a man with great aerial prowess, able to score goals from set pieces and mark multiple men on his own. Juventus’ team may change radically soon, after a few player sales and retirements, but history has shown that they always find a way to the top.

It is clear that both teams are most likely to become champions of their respective leagues this season. However, with Bayern drawn against Monaco and Juve Porto in the quarter-final of the Champions League this season, there is a chance the two could meet in the semi-finals. Who would win over two legs? It seems that, no matter how strong a run of form Juventus have put together, Bayern would have too much for them. At the moment, Bayern Munich can do little wrong and have a near-perfect team. Nevertheless, these two clubs are giants in their own right.