Bayern Munich. Purring. Image: Boris Streubel/Getty Images.
Would anyone have blamed Jupp Heynckes if he had sought advice from Pep Guardiola prior to last night’s Champions League semi vs. Barcelona? Few people are as well versed in the delicate handling required to get the best out of the purring supercar that is Barca, and with Guardiola set to take over from Heynckes in June, Bayern Munich, desperate to make up for the humiliating defeat at the hands of Chelsea at the Allianz Arena in last year’s final, could only have benefited from the Spaniard’s advice.
But Heynckes wasn’t having any it. “I admire Pep Guardiola,” he told reporters at the pre-match press conference, “but I don’t need any advice from other coaches“.
“Effing barber”. Image: Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images.
A few hours later, the purring supercar lay steaming and ticking in a hedge, having been comprehensively run off The Road To Wembley by Heynckes bigger, better, faster Bayern, who didn’t even have the courtesy to pull over and ask if everyone was ok. What had seemed like posturing from a usurped coach only hours earlier was revealed to be a prescient awareness of his team’s capabilities, an awareness that can only come from hard work driven by the bitter disappointment of losing to a poorer team in front of your own fans.
Barcelona were inferior in every area: Messi quiet and withdrawn, Xavi & Iniesta’s metronomic control of the midfield thrown out of rhythm via a combination of a swamp-like centre circle (props to the groundsman for his dramatic approach to pitch preparation) and stern marking and a back four that seemed distracted and ineffective, although to be fair to them, they probably had half an eye on the tunnel, waiting for the barber who committed the atrocity that was Pique’s new do, to emerge with his clippers and a glint in his eye.
It’s conceivable that Barcelona could come back: they’ll be at home, Leo Messi’s hamstring will be a week further into it’s rehabilitation programme and, well, it’s Barcelona. But be sure, Heynckes will be tuning his team’s engine and polishing their shiny bodywork right up until they step out onto the hallowed turf at the Nou Camp.
Heynckes has a point to prove and the destination is in sight. Right now, Tito Vilanova’s best bet is probably a stinger.