Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
Bayern Munich vs Manchester United | Wednesday 09 April | Allianz Arena | 20:45
Bayern Munich’s immortal status has come under close scrutiny following United’s rearguard action last week and their first league defeat this season against lowly Augsburg. Granted, many of their specialist weapons were left for optimal usage in this encounter, but one can’t help but feel that an aura of invincibility has been lifted somewhat at the Allianz Arena. Coupled with that, Bayern have failed to beat an English team in four attempts at home, including the psychologically devastating defeat to Chelsea in 2012. Manchester United are operating under good juju at present; Saturday’s victory over Newcastle was probably their most impressive performance in the league this season. David Moyes will know that anything is possible in this two match format and that a season destined for ignominy can somehow be salvaged in the dangerous waters of Europe.
To Win (90mins)
Bayern Munich 1/5
Manchester United 10/1
Bayern will be without the services of suspended midfield general Bastian Schweinsteiger and Alcantara may not yet be fully fit for this grudge match at the Allianz Arena. The systematic fluidity that has become a trademark of the Guardiola regime will come under increased pressure with these selection setbacks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see captain Philipp Lahm take the immense responsibility of shielding the back four, given his adaptability and footballing nuance. Thomas Muller was somewhat disappointing last week and Guardiola will almost certainly return to his top scorer Mandzukic in a more traditional attacking system.
Robben and Ribery were strangely subdued last week, perhaps due to the general malaise of their ordinarily incisive midfield. Toni Kroos will add a more direct feel to the side while Mario Gotze could be the spark that they lacked in the number ten position. Dante returns from suspension, adding far more solidity and progressive thinking in their defensive ranks. Munich will be buoyed by their home crowd, but will also feel an undeniable pressure if they don’t get the fast start they require. The longer United frustrate the opposition, the more likely discontent will settle in the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Allianz Arena.
Wayne Rooney’s apparent toe concerns will be a source of mass contemplation for United fans around the world. Supposing that he is fit – I feel that they will start him in a wheelchair if necessary – United will look for every iota of rugged determination from the plucky Englishman as they attempt a great escape of mythic proportions. David Moyes will not deviate too much from last week’s effective (if rather prehistoric) strategy. Danny Welbeck’s natural athleticism was utilised to exploit some indecisive German defending; Welbeck’s ungainly physique proved an awkward proposition for a Bavarian defense more versed in dismantling more intricate systems.
The absence of cup-tied Juan Mata will be keenly felt given his recent rejuvenation in the expansive United stylistic. Fellaini and Carrick will start in midfield, while Ryan Giggs may be drafted in to provide further rigidity. This may free Moyes to use the slightly enigmatic talent of Januzaj. In order to get anything from this match, United will have to temper pragmatism with a touch of the maverick, something that the fleet-footed Januzaj offers in abundance. Januzaj will offer them an alternative outlet to Welbeck on the counterattack through his blistering pace. This should be another fascinating encounter, with progression hinged delicately on a knife edge.
VERDICT: Bayern Munich 1/5
It won’t be a comfortable affair for the German champions. I feel that United will offer stern resistance for perhaps the first hour of the game, but Munich’s superiority will ultimately prove decisive in the final third. The pace of Robben and Ribery will have more freedom with the intricate passing of Gotze and Kroos behind them, and Mandzukic’s presence from the start will offer a more persistent goal threat for the German side. I feel United can grab one to keep themselves in the game, so in the interest of value, Both Teams to Score looks good at 21/20.