Bayern Munich’s longest winless run for three years and poor recent home record against English opposition have suddenly made Manchester United’s task on Wednesday look a lot less daunting than it was when the draw was made.
Bayern will also be without three key midfielders, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg, evenly poised after last week’s 1-1 draw.
The Bavarians have lost their air of invincibility since clinching the Bundesliga title against Hertha Berlin on March 25 and have not won since with two draws and a defeat in all competitions in their last three games.
It is the first time since March 2011 that Bayern have endured a three-match winless run and, even though they have already sewn up the Bundesliga, it is a disconcerting statistic for a side which has become used to chalking up wins with monotonous regularity.
Another worry for Bayern is their failure to win any of their last four matches against English opposition at the Allianz Arena.
The run started with the 2012 Champions League final against Chelsea, who won on penalties after a 1-1 draw. That was followed by defeats to Arsenal and Manchester City and, most recently, a draw against Arsenal in the previous Champions League round last month.
That game showed that Bayern can get the jitters when put under pressure, as Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger commented at the time.
“Bayern are a good side, they were more vulnerable this season than last year,” he said after a 3-1 aggregate defeat. “I thought Bayern were very vulnerable defensively, we didn’t take advantage of that. I felt there were situations which we could have made more of.”
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s tendency for South American-style forays out of his penalty creates an additional risk for last season’s treble winners, who are aiming for their third successive Champions League final.
United’s own form, with four goals in each of their last two Premiership wins, is another encouraging sign for manager David Moyes, even though Wayne Rooney, with a toe injury, and winger Ashley Young (hand) are both doubtful.
Bayern have Schweinsteiger suspended following his first leg sending-off along with Javier Martinez while a third key midfielder, Thiago Alcantara, is out injured.
Those absentees could be a worry even for a team with as much strength in depth as Bayern.
“We’ve got to play to win, we’ll end up losing if we play for a goalless draw,” said Bayern’s Brazilian defender Dante.
“We’ve got be aggressive going forward from the start and try to score. Manchester United will sit back again. They’ll take more risks the longer the game goes on.”
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said he also expected United to play on the break.
“They’ll be looking to hit us on the break and at set plays,” he said. “We’re in a final on Wednesday. It’s a matter of life and death.”