First-timer meets long-timer in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup, as European newcomer Getafe face off against Bayern Munich.
While Getafe are experiencing Europe for the first time, Bayern have been there and done that, six times in fact (four European Cup/Champions League titles, one Cup Winners’ Cup title, and one UEFA Cup title).
But, even though they’re new to the big time, and are only in their fourth season of top-flight football in Spain, Getafe certainly haven’t shown their inexperience in their run to the UEFA Cup quarters, as Danish legend Michael Laudrup has had quite a successful debut season in charge. They finished top of Group G, ahead of Tottenham and Anderlecht, winning three of their four group matches, including a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane in Martin Jol’s final match in charge.
In the round of 32, Getafe beat AEK Athens 4-1 on aggregate, and disposed of another established European side, Benfica, in the round of 16 by a 3-1 aggregate scoreline.
While their league form, both home and away, might leave something to be desired (39 points through 29 matches), they’ve breezed through in Europe, thanks in part to excellent away performances. In addition to their win at Tottenham, they won at Benfica in the last round, and have only one defeat in six away matches in the UEFA Cup. That lone defeat was a 3-2 extra time defeat to Dutch side Twente in the second leg of their first round match, where Getafe went up 2-1 (3-1 on aggregate) in extra time, and with the win all but sealed up, made things interesting by surrendering two goals in the final minutes to lose on the night, but still advanced on away goals.
They can’t afford to have any lapses against Bayern, who are making the most of their appearance in the UEFA Cup, rare as it may be. While they’re busy making sure that they start next season in the Champions League by giving themselves a commanding nine-point lead in the Bundesliga, Ottmar Hitzfield’s side has cruised into the UEFA Cup quarters. After ending the group phase with a resounding 6-0 win over Aris Salonika to give them top spot in their group, Bayern have disposed of Aberdeen and Anderlecht 7-3 and 6-2 on aggregate.
So, there can’t be any defensive lapses by Getafe, because they’ll get made mincemeat of just like Aris, Aberdeen, and Anderlecht, thanks to a midfield led by Franck Ribery and Hamit Altintop, who have made massive impacts in their first seasons at Bayern, and the strike partnership of Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose, who have combined for 38 goals this season.
Getafe are not nearly as flashy in attack, and have scored as many as they’ve conceded in La Liga (37 scored, 37 allowed), so they likely won’t be able to keep up if Toni and Klose go on a scoring spree. But, if the goals are going to come, they’ll likely come off the feet or heads off of young attackers Pablo (seven goals), Ruben de la Red (six goals), Ikechukwu Uche (five goals, and Manu (five goals).
Bayern are the prohibitive favorites not only to take this tie, but also to win the tournament. It would be a surprise if they’re not in the final at Eastlands on May 14, and they could all but stamp their place in the semifinals and a meeting with either their Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen or Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg with a comprehensive victory next Thursday.
But, Getafe’s run to the quarters hasn’t been a fluke, and they’re likely going to go into the tie with the same attitude that has gotten to them to the final eight. To win will require the best effort that they’ve put in so far, especially defensively, but don’t pencil Bayern into the final four just yet, and if Getafe can limit the damage in the first leg, they could have the chance to pull off a major shock in the second leg on the 10th.
Can they make the seemingly impossible happen and move on to the semis, or will the first-timers be added to Bayern’s list of victims on their merciless pursuit of a European trophy?