Bayern Munich look like they're back to their best. Just a few weeks ago, the German giants had suffered the indignity of coming away from Switzerland with a 1-0 loss against FC Basel, and it seemed as though they were poised to crash out of the Champions League with barely a whimper. Since, they've turned things around in a big way, annihilating Basel at the Allianz by a score of 7-0 and going on a run of form so strong that you can actually hear Borussia Dortmund's collective feet quaking in their boots.
There was, admittedly, a blip against Bayer Leverkusen, but since the Basel defeat Bayern have scored 26 goals and conceded four, advancing to the DFB-Pokal final and the Champions League quarterfinals in the process. They're a streaky side and they started the season in blistering form before fading badly as winter approached, but the fact that their run of happy times is unlikely to last for Bayern will be small comfort to Marseille, who have to play them here and now.
And they're not exactly on a good run themselves.
Marseille appear to have caught Inter Milan-itis after winning at home in the first leg of their knockout round tie. Since then, their form has resembled something out of a Lovecraft novel. Look at this:
Brest 1-0 Marseille
Marseille 0-1 Toulouse
Evian Thonon Gaillard 2-0 Marseille
AC Ajaccio 1-0 Marseille
Inter Milan 2-1 Marseille
Marseille 1-2 Dijon FCO
US Quevilly 3-2 Marseille
Nice 1-1 Marseille
Yeah, that's seven losses (including one in the cup to a team in the third division) and a draw. The cumulative score? 13-5. For a team that considers themselves Champions League quality, that's an awful, awful run. Fortunately for the club's coffers, the away goal at the San Siro was enough to see Marseille to the quarterfinals, but they're hardly likely to stop Bayern on the German's rampage to the quarterfinals.
Marseille are without goalkeeper and captain Steve Mandanda after he picked up a late red card against Inter, but Bayern's absentee list is more meaningful - influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is not expected to play despite travelling with the team. Would the 27-year-old's absence mean that the hosts might have a chance to keep things interesting? Coach Didier Deschamps doesn't seem to think so:
Our aim in the Champions League was to get to the knockout stages, and then we pulled off a shock win against Inter Milan, but they are aiming to go all the way to play the final in their own stadium. We are going to have to concentrate, but we can also be relaxed.
Hardly fighting words. Hopefully Marseille can at least prevent the tie from being decided in the first leg, as happened to APOEL Nicosia against Real Madrid (and, to a lesser extent, to Benfica against Chelsea), but I wouldn't count on anything from a team that's dropped to ninth in Ligue 1.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, March 28, 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. local
Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseille, France.
TV: FOX Soccer Plus (USA), Sky Sports 2 (UK)
For more on Bayern, head over to Bayern Munich blog Bavarian Football Works.