Champions League: Pep the perfectionist

Bayern Munich's head coach Pep Guardiola gestures during a training session in Munich February 18, 2014.

ROUND OF 16, 2ND LEG

BAYERN MUNICH v ARSENAL

(Wednesday, 3.40am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)

Bayern lead 2-0 from first leg

At the Allianz Arena, something remarkable is brewing.

When Pep Guardiola took over from Jupp Heynckes, there seemed to be no room left for improvement.

Last season, Bayern Munich won the Champions League, the German Bundesliga and the German Cup.

Somehow, Guardiola (right) may top even that.

Arsenal will not even get a whiff of a chance of overcoming a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League Round-of-16 tie when they visit the German league leaders tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

So what if the Gunners shocked Bayern 2-0 at the Allianz Arena at the same stage last season, only to lose on away goals?

Pep the Perfectionist won't allow complacency to set in this time round.

Bayern's brilliant form all season leaves Arsenal's hopes resting on a miracle.

Guardiola's gladiators have dropped only four points in their domestic league this term, which explains their 20-point lead at the top of the table.

If they negotiate past the remaining 10 games without a loss, they will become the first team to go unbeaten since the first season of the Bundesliga in 1963.

A clash with Kaiserslautern in the last four of the German Cup awaits them next month.

A place in the Champions League quarter-finals also looks a mere formality, despite all the bravado Arsene Wenger and his men could muster over the last couple of days.

The target of becoming the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era stays well on track.

TWEAKS

Bayern's date is with history, not Arsenal. Their continuing dominance doesn't come by chance.

Guardiola, 43, committed football's cardinal sin of fixing what ain't broken - with success.

He changed Heynckes' proven 4-2-3-1 system to, largely, a flexible 4-1-4-1.

He sets up his team to play higher up the pitch, with emphasis on faster ball recovery and short passing.

He moved Philipp Lahm, one of the finest fullbacks of his generation, to central midfield, where the Germany skipper continues to thrive.

Nowadays, Lahm is often a midfield protective shield and deep-lying playmaker rolled into one.

He's so good in his new role that Germany's coach Joachim Loew will be forced to rethink Lahm's best position at the World Cup in June.

But Lahm is just one of several players to relish a new role under Guardiola.

Thomas Mueller, who made his name as an attacking midfielder, has also been deployed up front by the former Barcelona coach this season.

Said Mueller: "When the coach arrived at the club, he didn't tell me you play here, you play there. He had to get to know us, too.

"And when he's done that, he'll put us where it's best for the team."

Guardiola's attention to detail surpasses most, as his former player, the delightfully-gifted Andres Iniesta, once pointed out.

And he certainly hasn't lost his perfectionist's streak since arriving from Spain.

After Bayern thumped Wolfsburg 6-1 away in a Bundesliga fixture on Saturday, Guardiola made his dissatisfaction known.

He said: "We were not as dominant as in recent games."

At the rate he's going, this season may turn out to be extraordinary, even by Bayern's standards.


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