2. Bayern Munich
Bayern look ominously comparable to the side which lifted this trophy in 2013. It’s not just because Jupp Heynckes is back as manager, although the 72-year-old’s return has revitalised this loaded squad.
Heynckes has restored old favorites forward Thomas Muller and midfield workhorse Arturo Vidal to the starting lineup. He’s also got ageless wing wonders Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery playing on levels they’ve rarely reached since he was last in charge.
Die Roten’s old guard are supplemented by a core of younger talent. The precocious group includes 23-year-old defender Joshua Kimmich and goalscoring midfielder Corentin Tolisso, also 23.
Heynckes can even call on the mercurial James Rodriguez to open up defenses. The Real loanee initially endured a difficult time at the Allianz Arena, but is growing in confidence at the business end of the season.
Bayern’s fusion of experience and youth helped them thump a good Besiktas team 8-1 on aggregate without breaking a sweat. There’s an order and precision to this group of talented players that’s typical of Heynckes.
His ability to point seasoned winners in the right direction has to make Die Roten strong candidates to lift the trophy once gain.