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Back in November, Bayern Munich’s chances of winning the Champions League for a record 6th time seemed slim.
Despite their stature, they had failed to beat Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund in the league, which saw Bundesliga newbies RB Leipzig pull ahead in the race for the title. However, it was suffering a humiliating defeat to Russian minnows FK Rustov which saw Bayern Munich reach their lowest point in a number of years.
They seemed to lack identity following the exit of revered boss Pep Guardiola and, soon enough, Carlo Ancelotti came under fire from a portion of the Bayern crowd.
However, the famed Italian has since steadied the ship and returned Bayern Munich to the top of German football. They are undefeated since that Champions League defeat, having now gone 19 games unbeaten in all competitions, and a run of 12 wins in their last 14 Bundesliga matches has seen them pull 13 points ahead of second-placed Leipzig.
Likewise, they put in one of their greatest ever Champions League displays over two legs against Arsenal in the round of 16 stage. Phenomenal performances from the likes of Arjen Robben, Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alacantra and Robert Lewandowski saw the Germans prevail 10-2 on aggregate, which set them up for a quarter-final clash with Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid.
Current champions Real Madrid are likely to be favourites heading into the tie, but Bayern Munich have found their rhythm just at the right time and will undoubtedly give Madrid a good game.
Madrid pride themselves on solid attacking football, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema supplying the goals, but they will find it tough to break down Bayern, who, despite their quality in attack, are proving to be a solid defensive unit this season. The German club have conceded just 13 times in 25 Bundesliga games this season - less than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues.
On the other hand, Madrid have proved to be frail in defence at times during the 2016/17 campaign, suffering defeats to the likes of Valencia and Celta Vigo. With an in-form Robert Lewandowski leading the line, Ancelotti will be confident that his side can score a goal or two over the course of the two legs.
Of course, there are no easy games at this stage of the Champions League and he will know all too well that an opponent of Madrid’s stature will likely await his side in the next round, too. However, with the Bundesliga title seemingly wrapped up, Bayern can now focus their attention on adding yet another Champions League title to their collection.
Should they do it, the victory would be all too sweet for Ancelotti. Not only will he have proved his early season critics wrong, but he would also become the only manager in history to have won the European Cup on four occasions.