Despite the weirdness of the coronavirus restart for the 2019–20 Champions League knockout rounds, it became clear very quickly that Bayern Munich was not there to fuck around. The Bavarians ran over Chelsea, Barcelona, and Lyon by a combined scoreline of 15–3 en route to the final. The final against Paris Saint-Germain was a more tense affair, but that one ultimately went Bayern’s way too. And judging from the German club’s season-opening Champions League match against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday, it looks like Bayern once again has that same mentality to win and win big.
In Wednesday’s Atleti match, Bayern put a 4–0 beatdown on one of the most reputedly defensive clubs in Europe. Honestly, Bayern should have scored more. The same Kingsley Coman that scored the treble-clinching goal in August showed up again, slipping behind a napping Kieran Trippier to score Bayern’s first before capping the rout with another in the 72nd minute. (Special shoutout to Corentin Tolisso’s 66th minute rocket, one of the cleanest hits you’ll ever see beat Atlético wonder-goalie Jan Oblak.)
In all, Bayern dominated possession (59 percent on the night) whlie also completely shutting down any set-piece trickery or counter-attacking threat. Part of this comes down to Diego Simeone’s tactical rigidity. A team with as much creative talent as Atleti, facing a team that dominates the midfield—Joshua Kimmich was once again nearly flawless for Bayern, including the inch-perfect assist for Coman’s opener—should not be lined up in a static 4-4-2. That formation has been Simeone’s calling card since he started turning Los Colchoneros into the elite club it is now, but the quality of attackers on his roster—João Félix, Koké, Ángel Correa, Yannick Carrasco, and others—demands more flexibility.
That might not have mattered on this particular night, though, against a Bayern team that seemed to live in and around the Atlético penalty box. Enough has been said about Robert Lewandowski’s importance to the team, but even when he has a relatively quiet game like he did on Wednesday, the team has enough firepower elsewhere to compensate. With summer signing Leroy Sané out with an injury, Coman took the leading role on Wednesday. If the Frenchman can stay healthy—his biggest problem to date in Munich—Bayern will have too many good attacking options for any one team to stop, even one as defensively stout as Atlético.
Bayern Munich might not repeat the treble this year, because that is an impossibly difficult thing to do in any year and especially in one with an even more condensed schedule than usual. At the same time, it would be hard to bet against them in any competition right now. Facing what should have been the toughest challenge of the group stage, the German side swept aside Atleti with hardly any trouble. That doesn’t bode well for any of the other teams in the Champions League, teams that might have to hope for more than a few lucky breaks to stop the well-oiled Bayern machine.