After clinching their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title over the weekend, Bayern Munich turn their focus to their tie with Sevilla in the Champions League. But wrapping up the league early has not always been fruitful.
For all the criticism surrounding the Bundesliga's lack of competition, Bayern Munich is in an enviable position for any team to be in. No other team in the final eight of this season's Champions League has already wrapped up their domestic league.
However, clinching a Bundesliga title prematurely hasn't made European glory any easier. During their run of six consecutive titles, Bayern have only celebrated one Champions League, in their treble year of 2013.
After securing the title on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over Augsburg, Bayern have to dispel a stigma that has surrounded them in recent years: can they attain Champions League glory while playing meaningless games in the Bundesliga?
In 2014 and 2015, Bayern, under Pep Guardiola, won the Bundesliga title with several games to play. Once the championship was secure, their ambition waned as they coasted to the end of the league season.
Even when Guardiola played his top players, his side lost games to the likes of Augsburg and Freiburg — not opponents Bayern would lose to if something was on the line. That did not become a problem domestically, but when they got to the Champions League stage, they did not raise their game.
In 2014, Real Madrid dominated Bayern in the semifinals, winning first 1-0 in Madrid before dismantling them 4-0. Barcelona handed the Bavarians a similar beating in 2015, taking a 3-0 lead after the first leg before Bayern collected a consolatory 3-2 victory in the second.
Guardiola never seemed to get his rotations right. He paired season veterans with players from the second team, which did not result in victories. Some players, Mario Götze, for instance, did not understand their roles, which became a problem when the Spanish coach needed to get the best out of them.
Through this complacency and confusion, Bayern were not at their best, and their Champions League performances suffered as a result.
The Heynckes effect
If there is any coach that can keep Bayern playing at a high level, it is Jupp Heynckes. In a press conference ahead of his side's quarterfinal second leg against Sevilla — one in which they hold a 2-1 aggregate advantage — he insisted the ambition in the squad has been restored.
"My players are hungry to reach the semifinals," Heynckes said.
It is no coincidence that Bayern ran away with the league when the 72-year-old came out of retirement and took over from Carlo Ancelotti in October. Since his arrival, he has made every player in the squad feel important while also demanding the highest professionalism from them.
That approach is how he attained the treble in 2013. Despite clinching the Bundesliga title with six games to play, Bayern not only dominated Juventus and Barcelona to reach the Champions League final, but also ended the league campaign unbeaten using primarily reserve players.
One of Heynckes' best attributes is his ability to rotate a squad, and he appears to have a formula working this term. Bayern lead Besiktas 5-0 after the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, but Heynckes still rested several of his regulars domestically against Hamburg before the second leg. Bayern won both of those games handsomely, beating Hamburg 6-0 before vanquishing Besiktas 3-1 in Istanbul.
Heynckes was especially level-headed when Bayern clinched this year's Bundesliga.He said before their title-securing victory over Augsburg that the team would only celebrate with "a glass of champagne" before turning their focus to the Champions league.
His magic touch worked in 2013, and with the Bundesliga title secured, he will need to use it again to keep Bayern playing at the level required for European glory.