As of this post hitting the internet, Juventus vs. Bayern Munich in the Champions League is all of about 48 hours away. Fans from both teams have been awaiting Tuesday night — some eagerly, some nervously, probably some a little in between — for the better part of the last two months.
The thing is, though, Juve-Bayern isn't two months away now. It's just two days away.
We're halfway through the first round of opening-leg matchups. And come Tuesday night. Juventus' turn to jump into the fray and try to make their stay in the Champions League knockout stages last more than just two games.
So, in typical big game kind of fashion around these parts of the internet, we've sought out or opposition's blog on the SB Nation European football network. In this case, we've employed one of the editors over at Bavarian Football Works, Ryan Cowper, to talk to us about what's going on over at Bayern Munich these days.
And don't you worry, there's no talk of loans with options to buy. We'll leave that up to Beppe Marotta, I guess.
BWRAO: Hey, Ryan. We can talk about the absolute goofiness of Thomas Muller later, but first let's get to what truly matters this week: Leg 1 in Turin on Tuesday night. Juventus and Bayern are both dealing with key injuries. How much do you think the injuries to Bayern will impact the first leg (or even both)?
BFW: Bayern Munich may have Medhi Benatia back from injury but I'm not going to hold my breath for it because everytime I turn around he's injured again. Besides that, Bayern Munich have no centerbacks so any attack on the break or dead ball situation that Juventus can send in on goal is going to be extremely dangerous.
BWRAO: The last time these two clubs saw each other in the Champions League, Bayern were storming through Juve â and every other opponent â on its way to a European championship. How does this Bayern compare to that Bayern?
BFW: The Bayern team of yesteryear was strong in every facet of gameplay. They struck the perfect balance between strong possession play, staunch defense, lightning fast counterattacks, and formational and tactical familiarity.
Pep Guardiola's Bayern when it's fully healthy can do the same thing with intent a direct imposition of possession that could be described as smothering. The only real issue being that it's never healthy. Combining imposing play in possession mirrored with a directness that his Barcelona sides never could manage, this team is an offensive juggernaut. On the other side of gameplay, they're held together with scotch tape, toothpicks, and more than their fair share of luck right now.
BWRAO: If there is a weakness on this Bayern team, what do you think it is?
BFW: In a word; defense. Bayern Munich have no centerbacks right now and have been relying on the experience of David Alaba and makeshift centerback Josua Kimmich. Their defense against teams on the break is suspect and their ability to win balls in the air is all but gone. Bayern need to keep Juventus in front of them and in their half of the field. If Medhi Benatia is fit and ready to play on Tuesday, they may have some semblance of defensive form but one aerial defender is still too few.
BWRAO: When looking at Juve's likely starting XI, who gives you the most worry?
BFW: It's not so much a single Juventus player that gives me pause, but Juventus' ability in the air. From Giorgio Chiellini to Leonardo Bonucci to Mario Mandzukic to Paul Pogba, Juventus has enough players with impressive aerial ability to really scare me. Especially given Bayern Munich haven't been able to defend a corner kick with any effectiveness since Pep Guardiola took over. So in a roundabout way, the Juventus player who scares me the most is the man standing over the ball on set pieces. Single game loans for Andrea Pirlo aren't allowed, right?
BWRAO: 'Sup with Arturo Vidal?
BFW: Who knows.... Arturo Vidal has been enigmatic for Bayern Munich this season. Early in the season he stamped his influence on matches with authority, but since then he's waned to the point where I seriously asked whether he should be on this team because he just never fit with his teammates. Since then, Bayern Munich's centerback have all succumbed to injury and Vidal's had to shoulder this team on his back. He's become that highly aggressive two-way juggernaut again -- the one that Juventus fans know so well. Only time will tell if this version of Vidal is going to be the one that shows up for the rest of this Bayern season.