Pep Guardiola has warned that his Bayern Munich side must find a way past “the best defence in Europe” when they face Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
Guardiola, who is aiming to win the tournament in his final season at the German club before he takes over at Manchester City in the summer, saw Bayern come back from trailing 4-2 on aggregate against the Italian champions Juventus in the last round to secure their place in the last eight.
However, despite facing the threat of the 32-goal striker Jonas and the emerging central midfielder Renato Sanches, the Spaniard admitted that it was the Portuguese league leaders’ back four which concerned him more.
“I’m impressed with the condition of Benfica,” Guardiola said. “They possibly have the best back four in Europe, so it will be an interesting game. They are not a defensive team, though, they defend very high up the pitch.
“We have two games to reach the semi‑finals and we want to focus on our own game, of course a victory is better for us than a defeat. For Bayern it’s all about being the best, but it will be a very even match with Benfica, they have had a very good season.”
Manuel Neuer, the goalkeeper who was beaten three times by England in the 3-2 friendly defeat of Germany in Berlin last week, also admitted that Benfica represented a real threat to their hopes of progressing. “We expect Benfica to be desperate to score a goal. Jonas and [Kostas] Mitroglou are a fire hazard inside the box,” Neuer said.
“Benfica will defend very high. That will give us some room but they will want to score a goal.”
Having arrived at the club after Jupp Heynckes led Bayern to the Champions League title in 2013, Guardiola’s two attempts to emulate him have both ended in defeat in the semi-final. He admitted that his spell in Germany may be seen as a failure if he does not put that right although the 45-year-old acknowledged that it will not be an easy task.
“Everyone at Bayern wants to win the treble, but it’s the same in Barcelona and Madrid also,” he said.
“I realise that my job is not fulfilled in your eyes if we do not win three titles. If that happens, I have to live with it, but I will know I have given everything. Bayern is the best club in the world, but has only won the treble once.”