Tough gig for Pep

Matt Stanger wonders just how Pep Guardiola can improve a Bayern Munich side that routed Barcelona.

Last Updated: 24/04/13 at 10:11

Pep Guardiola inherits a ludicrously talented Bayern Munich side from Jupp Heync

Pep Guardiola inherits a ludicrously talented Bayern Munich side from Jupp Heync

As Bayern Munich raced into a 4-0 lead against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, Pep Guardiola may have been feeling a teensy bit anxious. Bayern pulled off an enormous coup to entice the former Barcelona boss to the Allianz Arena at the end of the season, but Jupp Heynckes' shoes will take some filling.

Bayern were simply magnificent on Tuesday night, hassling and harrying on the sodden Allianz pitch as they sought to take advantage of their opponents' poor away record in the knock-out stage. Barcelona were always expected to dominate possession, but Heynckes has drilled a strong work ethic into his team and they pressed relentlessly until the opportunity to break at speed presented itself.

While Bayern were not cowed by Barcelona, they also showed intelligence to adapt their game to suit the occasion. Barca are the only team to average more possession and a better pass completion rate than Bayern in Europe's top five league this season, but the recently crowned Bundesliga champions were prepared to cede control of the ball for long periods. The first two goals were scored from corners, and with Bayern winning 79% of the game's aerial duels this was clearly a key strength.

Wherever Guardiola was on Tuesday - it has been reported that he didn't attend the match - he could be forgiven for shifting uncomfortably in his seat as Bayern carved Barca open with flair and purpose. The 42-year-old must be terribly excited about taking over this Bayern side, but he will also be wondering how on earth he is supposed to improve them. How can he do a better job than Heynckes?

This has almost been the perfect season for Bayern. They wrestled back the Bundesliga title from Borussia Dortmund with six games to spare and a goal difference that currently stands at +75. They have a German Cup final against Stuttgart to look forward to (poor, poor Stuttgart) and after an incredible performance against Barcelona, a second successive Champions League final surely awaits.

In a TV interview shortly after he was sacked by Leeds, Brian Clough tried to explain to his predecessor, Don Revie, that his aim at Elland Road had been to surpass Revie's achievements. "I wanted to win the league, but I wanted to win it better," said Clough. An indignant Revie responded: "There's no way you can do that," and perhaps Heynckes is left with a similar feeling towards Guardiola ahead of his departure in the summer.

Could Pep do a Clough at Bayern? (Revie, third from left)

If Bayern are victorious in the Champions League - a year after their heartbreak at home to Chelsea - then there are few heights left for Guardiola to scale. An unbeaten season would be a fantastic feat, as would retaining the Champions League crown - something Guardiola failed to do with Barcelona. The expectation levels are huge, and Bayern fans must be dreaming of a period of dominance similar to the Seventies when they won the European Cup three seasons in a row.

Additional pressure, if indeed it were possible, comes in the form of Bayern backing Guardiola to the tune of £32million in his pursuit of Mario Götze. At that price it's fair to expect both player and manager to hit the ground running, with Götze's current coach, Jurgen Klopp, revealing that Guardiola was the driving force behind the transfer. "The reason Götze is leaving? He is the favorite transfer of Guardiola," said Klopp. "Götze wants to work with this extraordinary coach that is Guardiola."

It would be hard to name a player who wouldn't want to work with Guardiola, but the manager will know how quickly things can turn sour in football after ending his brilliant spell at Barcelona with a disappointing campaign last year. If Bayern struggle to hold onto their one, two? three? pieces of silverware next season, then Guardiola may suddenly find himself labelled a failure.

This article first appeared on Football365

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