Barca win would be Pep's finest moment

There has always been a degree of scepticism about Pep Guardiola's work at Barcelona and now at Bayern; as if he has simply been handed two squads of world-class players and all he has to do is stand on the sidelines and watch them score goals.

He has indeed inherited two great teams but nothing in his career so far will have prepared him for what is about to transpire in this upcoming series of games. Guardiola is facing the most intense challenge of his coaching life. Against Barcelona on Wednesday at Camp Nou he will have to demonstrate that his side can legitimately be described as the best in Europe. That is not easy. It is even more difficult when he has only half a team. 

Not once this season has Guardiola had a full squad available to him. Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, two World Cup and treble winners, have missed huge chunks of the campaign. Last summer's marquee signing Medhi Benatia has also broken down too often. Franck Ribery remains touch and go for this week but his season, like so many others at Bayern, has been injury-ravaged. Pep has had to do without his two Spanish maestros, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez, for most of the season although their return at this part of the campaign could now prove crucial. 

While those players have finally regained fitness, other important ones have been struck down. Arjen Robben and David Alaba, the best attacker and best all-round player in the squad respectively, are marked absent until next season. Robert Lewandowski, who has toiled diligently all season while those around him were dropping like flies, is recovering from concussion, a broken nose and a broken jaw. Holger Badstuber was again emerging as a key defender but another muscle injury has stricken him lame. 

Pep's season has been more about managing resources than implementing the next stage of his grand plan. He has turned up on matchdays with only 14 fit players. No coach can conduct significant work on the training field with those numbers. Bayern play 34 Bundesliga matches a season. Their squad is 25 players strong. Multiply one number by the other and you get 850 individual matchdays. Guardiola's squad between them have missed nearly 200; around a quarter of all games. Think of Bayern's strongest XI; now think how many times Guardiola has been able to use it. Never has a coach had to achieve so much with so few fit players at his disposal. 
Previous Post Next Post