Bayern Munich dispatched Viktoria Plzen with ease for the second week in a row with a 4-2 Champions League victory in the Czech Republic on Wednesday.
The German champions, who won the same fixture 5-0 in Munich last week, have now progressed to the last 16 and need one point from their remaining two games to top the group.
It took Bayern just three minutes to go in front, Sadio Mane lifting home adroitly, and further simple yet accomplished finishes from Thomas Muller and Leon Goretzka, who got two, ended the game as a contest in short order.
As Bayern eased off, Plzen improved, scoring two second-half goals to make the scoreline look respectable.
But the difference between the sides was and is chasmic, and no one will want to draw the Bavarians in the last 16, which will be the least of their ambitions; if Julian Nagelsmann can find his best team and system, his team have every chance of winning this competition.
Bayern were without Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala, Matthijs de Ligt, Manuel Neuer and Alphonso Davies, yet were still able to bring Marcel Sabitzer and Ryan Gravenberch off the bench – among others. Which is to say that they have an incredible squad – one of the finest ever assembled – and should be among the favourites to win this season’s Champions League.
Yet the team have struggled in the Bundesliga and Julian Nagelsmann struggling to find his best XI and formation. No one is any the wiser after tonight – Plzen were just not in their class – but at some point soon, Nagelsmann needs to settle on something. And the odd thing is, his squad is so talented it almost doesn’t matter what that is.
A back four of Mazraoui, Upamecano, De Ligt and Davies, with a midfield of Kimmich, Goretzka and Musiala and a front three of Coman, Mane and Sane might not be the best combination in the best system, but there’s no way of knowing what is. This line-up, though, would give them flexibility, solidity, invention and width.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich) Scored two nice goals and helped create two others.
Viktoria Plzen: Stanek 6, Havel 4, Hejda 4, Tijani 5, Jemlka 4, Kalvach 5, Bucha 6, Kopic 5, Vlkanova 6, Mosquera 7, Chory 5. Subs: Jirka 6, Kliment 7, Pernica 6, Holik 6, Pilar 6.
Bayern Munich: Ulreich 6, Mazraoui 6, Pavard 6, Upamecano 6, Stanisic 5, Kimmich 6, Goretzka 7, Coman 7, Sane 7, Mane 6, Muller 6. Subs: Tel 5, Gravenberch 6, Sabitzer 6, Wanner 6, Choupo-Moting.
Bayern have reached the last 16 for the 15th year in a row. Only Real Madrid having a longer active streak – 20 years.
10’ – GOAL! Viktoria Plzen 0-1 Bayern Munich (Mane) This is very nicely done. Mane pulls left – he can’t help himself – wriggles across the face of the box and feeds Goretzka who snaps a return that sticks his mate in on goal. His first touch is a little heavy, but it commits the keeper who dives to smother, except Mane lengthens his stride beautifully, reaching the ball first to flick over Stanek’s desperate dive.
14’ – GOAL! Viktoria Plzen 0-2 Bayern Munich (Muller) It’s Goretzka again! He turns a terrific reverse-pass out to the left, Coman crosses first time, and Muller punches home from close range. Bayern barely celebrate and Jonathan Peace barely raises his voice which, if you remember him from his Capital Gold days in the 80s and 90s, is quite a thing.
25’ – GOAL! Viktoria Plzen 0-3 Bayern Munich (Goretzka) This is like a training match. Coman bundles through a challenge down the right, squares to the edge, and when Sane tickles a touch, Goretzka is in front of goal, looking one way then shooting the other as the goalie buys the subterfuge like it’s going out of fashion. If Bayern can be arsed, this could get embarrassing for all concerned.
35’ – GOAL! Viktoria Plzen 0-4 Bayern Munich (Goretzka) Plzen are game, but they’ve no defensive organisation, so when Sane gets on the ball outside the box, there’s no pressure on him. That allows him to wait and wait before darting a pass through for the marauding Goretzka, who dinks a fine finish over the diving Stanek and this could soon get messier than it already is.
62’ – GOAL! Viktoria Plzen 1-4 Bayern Munich (Vlkanova) It’s been coming! Bucha crosses from the right, Mosquera heads down and back, and Vlkanova, given time, drills a terrific low finish inside the near post! The comeback is on!
75’ – GOAL! Viktoria Plzen 2-4 Bayern Munich This is very nicely done, Kliment and Vlkanova combining with nice, one-touch play to send Holic down the right. His cross is a goodun and when Klimen controls, the ball bounces up for him to spin and drill into the corner beforee Ulreich can move. It’s on! OK, it isnt, but let’s pretend.