German football has had a bit of a setback. Bayern Munich were knocked out of their stride by unfancied Porto and the club that ran them a close second in recent years, Borussia Dortmund, are looking for a new coach after Juergen Klopp announced he will be leaving the club come July. And in the wake of both, fresh rumours circulated that Bayern will be looking for Pep Guardiola’s replacement as the former Barca man starts to look elsewhere.
Let’s look at Bayern’s capitulation in Portugal. This was a minor shock, make no mistake, but was also a reflection of Bayern’s current injury problems. Both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were out injured and Bayern just looked out of sorts. Porto put Bayern’s defence under pressure from the start and this prevented them from building from the back in their usual slow, precise way. Defensively, Bayern were found wanting, prompting Frank Beckenbauer to call it a “dark night” for the club.
Did Bayern underestimate Porto? I think so. Nobody really expected that Jackson Martinez, who has been out of action for over a month with hamstring problems, would come back and cause the Bayern defence the sort of problems we saw in Porto. And Ricardo Quarasma, whose career has often flattered to deceive, was also in sparkling form, scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes. They caught Bayern cold. At 3-1, Porto are in the driving seat, but the tie is far from over. A 2-0 win will take Bayern through and that’s a more than reasonable expectation.
But can Porto pull it off and throw UEFA Champions League planning into disarray? The final is in Berlin this year – UEFA must be hoping that it doesn’t end up with Porto v Juventus in the final when you’ve got Real, Barca and Bayern in the mix.
How good are Porto? Well, they’ve lost only three games all season and are currently in second place in the Primeira Liga having conceded just 12 goals in 28 games. That strong defence will be depeleted in the second leg as both Danilo and Alex Sandro, the regular full-backs, will be suspended. But Porto’s away form bodes well for Munich – one defeat all season. With six rounds to go in Portugal, Porto are three points behind Benfica, but the two clubs meet on April 26 in Lisbon, a game that should decide the title.
Martinez’s performance against Bayern will rekindle talk of him moving in the close season. Now 28 years-old, Martinez has been eyed by a number of top clubs for some years, but apparently, Manchester United are keen to “break the bank” to take the Colombian to Old Trafford. He’s scored 17 goals in the Primeira Liga this season and six in the Champions League and his overall record in Europe has been very good – a goal every other game.
Bayern have not been at their best recently. They have lost two of their last five games and one of those was a home defeat in the Bundesliga at the hands of old rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach. They also made heavy weather of beating Bayer Leverkusen on penalties in the German Cup. But they still lead second-placed Wolfsburg by 10 points, so title retention is almost a given.
Further down the table, Borussia Dortmund have taken themselves into a more comfortable mid-table position, although 2014-15 will go down as a disappointing campaign for Germany’s best supported club. At the halfway stage, people feared for Dortmund’s future, but since the restart, they have won five of their 11 games and drawn another three. Only recent 1-0 defeats have interrupted their progress. So it was a better time to announce the departure of Juergen Klopp, who is not “taking a sabbatical” and is likely to turn up somewhere in England.
Klopp has reminded everyone of his earlier statement that indicated he would leave Dortmund when he felt he was no longer the man for the job. Bayern Munich have been a thorn in his side for the past few years and not just on the pitch. For a while, Klopp gave Germany a football future that was not red and blue. But “FC Hollywood” made absolutely certain that North-Rhine Westphalia’s finest would provide no further threat by prising their finest assets away to Bavaria. That must have been hard for Klopp.
Where will he be bound? There was talk of Arsenal, but Arsene Wenger has probably given himself breathing space thanks to the Gunners’ revival in recent weeks. Manchester City just cannot wait to replace Pellegrini, so the Etihad may be Klopp’s next destination. As for Dortmund, they now start the search for a new coach….