In the coming days, you probably won’t hear much about this match on PST. With 16 UEFA Champions League games spread over two days, there are more compelling stories than Bayern Munich’s visit to Viktoria Plzen. When the continent’s best team makes a trip to one of the tournament’s weakest sides, you can excuse us not trying to fabricate drama (he says, fully away Bayern lost in Belarus last year).
Note: Nobody’s calling the match meaningless. How can they when the German champions are on the verge of tying a European record? If Pep Guardiola’s team beats the Czech champions on Tuesday, they equal Barcelona’s mark for longest Champions League winning streak. Heavy favorites to claim a victory that could put them into the knockout round (with help from Manchester City), Bayern will run their winning streak to nine should they take care of business in Plzen.
The current record is held by Barcelona, but not the version you assume. Back in 2002-03, the Blaugrana won nine in a row, sweeping through group stage (six wins) before winning their first three matches in second group stage. A 0-0 draw at Internazionale on Feb. 26 not only ended their run but also augured trouble against Italian opponents. Barça would go out of the competition in the quarterfinals, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Juventus.
In that way, Bayern’s potential record is would be more impressive than Barcelona’s, the Germans having accumulated half their wins in the competition’s knockout round. Bayern won four-in-a-row to close last year’s tournament, defeating Milan, Juventus (twice), Barcelona (twice), and Borussia Dortmund en route to their fifth European Cup.
“Records are special,” Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “While the chance is here, we want to break as many as possible.”
Schweinsteiger teammate Mario Götze, also available at Monday’s press conference, said the team’s focus is on the competition, not the record.
“We want to qualify for the last 16 as quickly as possible,” the Bayern midfielder explained. “It’ll be easier to approach the remaining games knowing we’ve qualified, and we have plenty of matches in the next few weeks”.
Making the last 16 isn’t going to be a problem. Although Guardiola was quick to note Plzen won 6-1 in league this weekend, Bayern destroyed the Czech champions 5-0 two weeks ago – the underlying gap between the teams one of the larger you can imagine in modern Champions League. Plzen should be better at home, but unless Bayern’s complicit in an upset, they’re going to tie the record.
And with a little help in Manchester, they could also secure a place in the tournament’s last 16. Both Götze and history can be happy.