Josep Guardiola carried on where Jupp Heynckes left off as FC Bayern München followed up UEFA Super Cup glory by winning Group D and making history along the way.
Josep Guardiola picked up where Jupp Heynckes left off by adding the 2013 UEFA Super Cup to FC Bayern München's expanding trophy haul, as his new side prevailed on penalties against Chelsea FC in the Prague showpiece. The holders subsequently triumphed in five of their six UEFA Champions League Group D fixtures to ensure a smooth passage to the round of 16 as section winners.
Story so far
After making light work of PFC CSKA Moskva on matchday one, the Bavarians posted a stunning 3-1 victory at Manchester City FC. Guardiola's charges then powered five unanswered goals past FC Viktoria Plzeň and edged the same opposition 1-0 to progress with two games to spare. A record tenth UEFA Champions League success at CSKA followed three weeks later, but their momentum was punctured courtesy of a 3-2 home reverse by City, who would have pipped Bayern to top spot had they scored again in Munich.
Sweeping aside Manchester City on matchday two served as an ominous reminder of Bayern's outstanding quality and put them in the Group D driving seat. Mario Mandžukić's 65th-minute winner at Plzeň was arguably more significant, however, on a night when the Bundesliga team toiled in vain for long periods. As well as securing their place in the last 16, the result gave Bayern greater margin for error going into the remaining fixtures, and proved crucial on matchday six.
: Arjen Robben
While Franck Ribéry has continued to dazzle after winning the 2012/13 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, Robben has been the more impressive of the two wide men, the 29-year-old registering three times and creating as many goals during a productive group stage campaign. Bayern could have been forgiven for letting up this term, but Robben has personified their insatiable hunger for success with a string of dynamic displays.
Rising star: Rafinha
Age may not be on his side, yet Rafinha has enjoyed a new lease of life under Guardiola. Consigned to the bench for most of last season, the 28-year-old full-back has since become a regular fixture for Bayern, making 15 Bundesliga outings and starting each of their opening five UEFA Champions League group matches. With the 2014 FIFA World Cup approaching, Rafinha has every chance of featuring in Brazil's finals squad should he continue his fine form.
Bayern set a new mark with an unprecedented tenth successive win in the UEFA Champions League proper against CSKA on matchday five. FC Barcelona held the original record of nine straight victories in the course of the 2002/03 campaign, but Bayern's sequence spans two coaches and two seasons. It kicked off with a first-leg triumph against Juventus under Heynckes in the quarter-finals of last term's competition, where they posted five consecutive wins en route to lifting the trophy. Five more successes under Guardiola in Group D this time out have rewritten the record books.
"The records will be nice to look at when you sit on the couch one day."
Forward Thomas Müller reflects fondly on the impact of Bayern's UEFA Champions League exploits.
Next challenge: Arsenal FC
(Away: 19 February, home: 11 March)
The teams met at this juncture in 2004/05 and again last season, with Bayern prevailing 3-2 over two legs on the former occasion and on away goals last term. The Gunners – lifted by Aaron Ramsey's coming of age and the capture of Mesut Özil – came second in a tricky section containing Borussia Dortmund, SSC Napoli and Olympique de Marseille to advance to the knockout phase for the 14th campaign running.