Forget Bayern Munich’s bad loss to Manchester City in the group stage. The real trouble lies ahead as the Champions League draw pitted them against the toughest possible opponent from the runners-up group: Arsenal.
Heading into the final day of the group stage, Arsenal led Group F while Bayern’s league-mates Borussia Dortmund trailed in second. With Arsenal playing Napoli and Borussia playing Marseille; Arsenal, Borussia and Napoli all had a chance at the top seed. At the end of the day, it was Borussia coming away on top and Arsenal backing into the knockout stage after losing to Napoli. The late shuffling of the group made possible the tough drawing for Bayern.
Per league rules, if Arsenal had advanced as the top seed and Borussia the second seed, Bayern wouldn’t have been able to draw either clubs (group winners cannot play each other in the knockout stage nor can clubs from the same league). The two toughest clubs in the runners-up group are Arsenal and Manchester City — and Bayern would not have had to face Manchester City either as knockout stage rules also forbid two teams who played in the same group during the previous round going head to head in the knockout stage.
Had Arsenal won their group, these are the clubs Bayern could have drawn for the knockout stage: Olympiacos, AC Milan, Galatasaray or Zenit. Those four clubs would have been an easy match for the Bundesliga champs. The other two runners-up, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 both hail from the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich are expected to go all the way again this season, both in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League. Their form hasn’t been questioned in well over a year, until the loss to ManCity left some wondering if there were in fact some holes in the German side. Drawing Arsenal shouldn’t faze them; after all, it was in the knockout stage in last years competition that saw Bayern beating Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates before advancing on aggregate scoring after Arsenal beat them at home 2-nil on the return leg.
Pep Guardiola’s squad is the best in the business right now. But they will have to prove it by going through a very strong English club while several other tournament favorites enjoy more favorable match ups.