Pep Guardiola this week offered a rare insight into the pressure he feels to deliver Bayern Munich a Champions League trophy, telling reporters he was fully aware of the criticism he would face if they were eliminated by Juventus on Wednesday.
“I know what will come towards me in the coming months should we lose,” the Spanish coach said a day before Bayern staged a memorable comeback, battling from two goals down to score four times and beat last season’s finalists 4-2.
Bayern, who needed a last-gasp equaliser to force extra time against the Italians, advanced to the last eight 6-4 on aggregate to keep alive their hopes of winning another treble.
Guardiola’s own hopes of leaving Bayern for Manchester City at the end of the season with another Champions League title to his name had looked dead and buried after Juve raced to a 2-0 lead after 28 minutes.
The Bianconeri, who had also come back from a 2-0 deficit in the first leg in Turin to draw 2-2, could even have added to their tally and Bayern’s European dreams appeared to be fading away in front of their home crowd.
The Spaniard took over at Bayern three years ago after leading Barcelona to 14 titles in four years, charged with maintaining the German club’s European dominance after the treble-winning 2013 season under his predecessor Jupp Heynckes.
But he has yet to match those high European expectations, with his team falling in the semi-finals in both previous campaigns.
It had looked to be another disappointing European evening for Guardiola’s Bayern before Robert Lewandowski found the net in the 73rd minute and Mueller scored a late equaliser to force an extra 30 minutes.
Two goals in extra time from two of Guardiola’s substitutes then completed their stunning comeback and the coach was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“I don’t care who we play next. If you want to reach the semi-finals then you have to be ready to beat any opponent,” he said.
“But we are there. We made it. A minute later and we would have been out.”
The victory will no doubt ease pressure on the coach and Bayern can expect to be stronger in the next round with the return of several injured players, including defender Javi Martinez and winger Arjen Robben.
“Now we can relax and just wait for the next opponent,” said keeper Manuel Neuer. “I don’t think there are many teams out there who hope to play Bayern now.”