Bayern must turn to Mueller, says Richard Buxton
Bayern forward has otherworldly gift to frighten Simeone's side
SEMI-FINAL, 2ND LEG
BAYERN MUNICH v ATLETICO MADRID
- Atletico lead 1-0 after the first leg
(Tomorrow, 2.45am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
Not for the first time, Thomas Mueller will be a man on a mission tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
He has warned of Bayern Munich's need to "set off fireworks" if they are to overcome Atletico Madrid.
The question is whether Pep Guardiola realises the German talisman holds the bluetouch paper that can salvage their Champions League season.
Devoid of an away goal for a third season at the semi-final stage, Bayern have it all to do as their pursuit of Europe's elite club trophy teeters on the brink of another last-four exit in a season where everything is still attainable.
Guardiola cannot afford to overlook his blockbuster act once again in the second leg at the Allianz Arena.
Omitting Mueller, the club's top Champions League scorer, at the Vicente Calderon was a self-inflicted wound by the outgoing Bayern boss; one which cost his side the upper hand during last week's terse first-leg.
For all their quality, Bayern lacked conviction in the 1-0 loss in Madrid.
Guardiola deemed Mueller to be ill-suited to the task against a defensively resilient Atletico, instead electing to pack his midfield and use the width of Kingsley Coman to stretch fullbacks Felipe Luis and Juanfran.
Once again, he opted for the processes behind an increasingly outdated philosophy. It backfired; Atletico's penchant for soaking up both pace and pressure held firm.
Robert Lewandowski was further isolated in the absence of his supporting cast member.
It turned out that Mueller had been Bayern's solution, rather than their problem, all along.
There is a reason why he has become affectionately known as the Raumdeuter or "space investigator' in Bavaria. His well-documented ability to exploit organisational gaps - find space where other humans can't - would have served as their greatest weapon in breaking down Diego Simeone's well-drilled charges.
By the time Guardiola relented, however, Mueller was largely ineffectual.
Players of his calibre cannot be expected to turn on the style in the parameters the 26-year-old encountered last week - a limited time frame of 20 minutes against stubborn opponents.
For all the fanfare, Atletico are not unbeatable.
Barcelona may have surrendered their defending champions status in a quarter-final exit at Simeone's hands but, in the first leg, they struck back following an early sucker-punch.
There is no reason why Bayern cannot emulate the feat, not least with an unbroken home record of 11 successive wins in the Champions League.
Calm heads are what is needed.
Another rattled performance like the one which saw Juventus take them into extra-time in the Round of 16 would see a second treble in three years, equalling Jupp Heynckes' historic 2013 haul, killed off in an instant.
Guardiola's desperation to emulate his predecessor remains the sole factor that will define whether he leaves as an unqualified success or a failure.
Big performances are now required from a squad that gives credence the club's FC Hollywood billing, their manager included.
"We have a strong defence but we also score goals. We all fight for each other, that is the main quality which brought us to the semis. We will play to win. We will give everything to fulfil our dream."
— Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres
- Robert Lewandowski (above, 38 goals)
EUROPEAN CUP/CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BEST RESULTS
- Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013
(Before this season)
- 1973/1974 final 1-1; Replay - Atletico 0 Bayern 4
Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich had to wait to have their historic fourth consecutive Bundesliga title confirmed after a 1-1 home draw with Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday. Thomas Mueller's first-half header was cancelled out by Andre Hahn's second-half strike. There was some good news for Bayern as Jerome Boateng started his first game since January.
- Bayern have lost to Spanish clubs in the semi-finals in the last two seasons, going down 4-0 at home to Real Madrid in 2013/14 (5-0 on aggregate) and bowing out 5-3 on aggregate despite beating Barcelona 3-2 last year.
- Bayern have been unstoppable at home in this season's Champions League, winning all five games - although they needed extra time, and a recovery from 2-0 down, to beat Juventus in the Round of 16.
- Their Champions League home winning streak is now at 11. They are one win away from equalling the record set by Manchester United between Sept 13 2006 and April 29, 2008.
- Antoine Griezmann (above, 30 goals)
EUROPEAN CUP/CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BEST RESULTS
- Runners-up 1974, 2014
Antoine Griezmann came off the bench to score the winner as Atletico Madrid maintained their La Liga title hopes with a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, despite coach Diego Simeone making seven changes from the side that started the first leg against Bayern.
- This is Atletico's fifth European Cup semi-final, having twice entered the final. Two years ago, they overcame Chelsea 3-1 on aggregate at this stage.
- Atletico's away record in this season's competition is W2 D2 L1. They beat PSV Eindhoven on penalties in the Round of 16. It is the second year in succession that Simeone's side won their last-16 contest on spot kicks, following their win over Bayer Leverkusen last season.
- In all Uefa competitions, Atletico have emerged victorious in 27 of the ties in which they have won the home first leg - including the last 15 matches - and losing the other seven. When the home first leg has finished 1-0, Atletico's aggregate record is W6 L3, with victories in the last three such ties.
- Wire Services.