As with previous Bayern Munich managers, Julian Nagelsmann’s success in the Champions League, where Xavi’s Barcelona will be visiting Munich, will eventually determine his fate.
On Tuesday at the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich and Barcelona will square off once more in the Champions League as both teams look to reclaim their former selves.
The former Barça midfielder’s renovation at Camp Nou is well underway, and his accomplishments in less than a year as a manager shouldn’t be understated. The season is off to a very promising start at Camp Nou, where he inherited a shambles and is currently witnessing his reshaped team annihilate opponents. Xavi has, of course, benefited much from Joan Laporta’s economic wheeling and dealing, but the improvement was apparent even before the summer shopping binge.
On the other side, Julian Nagelsmann is tasked in Munich with a slightly different task: he must attempt to stop one of the most illustrious families in European football from collapsing. The 35-year-old was hired by Bayern in April 2021, when the Bundesliga team was still legally the champions of Europe, but he didn’t officially take over until July, by which time Chelsea had won the title and Thomas Tuchel was suddenly the popular German manager.
Concerns about Nagelsmann in the Champions League
Since that day, Nagelsmann has added the 2021–22 Bundesliga championship to the team’s collection of trophies, but the destiny of the young manager may be decided this season in Europe, where Bayern coaches are finally assessed. Few people actually believe that Union Berlin or Freiburg will continue to be ahead of the Bavarian powerhouse in May despite the fact that Bayern has drawn its previous three league games and has slipped to third place.
Borussia Dortmund, Bayern’s longtime rivals, are in fifth place, level on points, as both teams adjust to their new circumstances with the departures of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland, respectively. Bayern’s convincing 2-0 victory away at Inter Milan to open their Champions League campaign was sufficient to temporarily hide the Bundesliga’s flaws. However, given that the Liga team has never won in Munich, a loss to Barcelona could not be as easily excused.
The majority of the Bayern team who won the Champions League in 2020 under Hansi Flick is still there, but they lost several important players including Lewandowski, David Alaba, and Javi Martnez. Only four members of the team who won the trophy in 2015 are on Xavi’s team.
Marc-André ter Stegen, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets were the only unquestioned starters in the previous successful European campaign at Camp Nou (with their present manager on the bench). Only two of those players are still in place today.
“What occurred in our previous four matches against them is irrelevant; this team is entirely different. They press after losing the ball in a manner akin to when Xavi played. They have young talents like Pedri and Gavi to watch out for. They will be a difficult opponent; Xavi has been doing a terrific job,” Nagelsmann remarked in his pre-game press conference.
Barcelona and Bayern are Champions League opponents.
Currently, in its 68th season, the European Cup/Champions League has been won by 22 different clubs. With 14 victories, Real Madrid holds the record, and AC Milan is the second-most successful team in history with seven victories. Bayern completes the podium with six championships (1974–1976, 2001, 2013, 2020), joining a select group of teams who have been given the privilege of keeping the trophy permanently after winning it five times or more. With five trophies under their belt—one from Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team in 1992 and the other four mostly because of Leo Messi—Barcelona is another member of that privileged group (2006, 2009, 2011, 2015).