Selasa, 23 April 2013

UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich ready for FC Barcelona clashes

Tonight FC Bayern Munich take on FC Barcelona at the Allianz Arena in their UEFA Champions League first-leg match. The stadium will be full to capacity with 68,000 fans inside the stadium and an electric atmosphere expected then Europe’s best two club sides meet for a place in the final.

The German Bundesliga giants know that they need a positive result, ideally a win with two/three goals with no goals conceded to go into the away tie at the Nou Camp next Wednesday, May 1 to reach the Champions League final at the iconic Wembley Stadium, but one should not forget that Bayern Munich have been the best team across all competitions, domestic and continental, this season in Europe while FC Barcelona have shown unusual problems and weaknesses with Champions League examples being the away ties against Celtic Glasgow and AC Milan plus both the matches against Paris Saint Germain. Barcelona continue to dominate and control matches as they have over the last few years, but sometimes they are unable to find the net at crucial junctures. Injuries to key players have also done their bit.

At the domestic front both the clubs are in a similar situation. Bayern Munich have already sealed their Bundesliga league title, while FC Barcelona need a few more points to regain the La Liga crown. This gives them both the necessary concentration for the Champions League with both sides resting some of their star players over the weekend in their domestic competitions.

At the pre-match press conference Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes summed-up FC Barcelona of being more than just Lionel Messi. “Barça aren't just Messi. Barça are much more than Messi. Barça are a fine collective. They play football of the highest quality."

And the seasoned former Real Madrid coach, who even lifted the Champions League title with Barca’s archrivals, is not worried at the prospect of playing next week’s return-leg in Barcelona, “Bayern are capable of scoring at Camp Nou – one goal, or more.”

Attacking midfielder Thomas Müller, who has been having an exceptional season, meanwhile said ahead of the match, "We have to keep it tight at the back and keep a clean sheet at home if possible. That's the be-all and end-all if we want to make the final. And I really don't care whether we play pretty football or not. The only thing that matters is the result. I'm optimistic, but everyone knows it'll hardly be a stroll."

The important team news for Bayern is that central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger following an ankle injury is fit to face Barcelona though the club will miss long time absentees Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber besides an in-form Mario Mandzukic upfront due to a yellow card suspension, but coach Jupp Heynckes has the luxury of having Mario Gomez and Claudio Pizarro as alternatives with both strikers having been amongst the goals in recent matches. Especially German international striker Gomez, who is of Spanish origin, wants to play against Barcelona and show his class after Mandzukic has taken his place as Bayern’s number one striker and speculation in Germany is that Gomez could leave the Bavarians for a new opportunity in the summer.

At the FC Barcelona end it is all about Argentinian Lionel Messi and if he will be fit to play tonight. Messi made the trip to Munich after training on Sunday, but the Barca medical team have still not given the all clear for him to play against Bayern Munich. But Barcelona are sure to miss injured duo Carlos Puyol and Javier Mascherano, while Adriano is suspended.

Barcelona Director of Sports Andoni Zubizarreta said about the clubs superstar, "Messi is with the team and is fit enough to play, but the coaches will have to decide whether he does or not. We want to be sure that we have the best possible team on the field."

This seasons Champions League semifinals against FC Barcelona is also about getting rid of old ghosts, be it the 0-4 defeat at the Nou Camp under then coach Jürgen Klinsmann in April 2009 or last season’s unlucky Champions League final defeat against Chelsea in the final at home (Finale Dahoam) in Munich.

The 0-4 defeat at the Nou Camp under Klinsmann was the start of the end of the former Germany strikers coaching stint with the Bavarians, who realised that Klinsmann wasn’t the coach the club needed. But while Barcelona are mainly the same team with some changes here and there, Bayern Munich are a different side altogether if you compare the team then (Butt - Oddo, Demichelis, Breno, Lell - Altintop (46. Ottl), van Bommel, Zé Roberto (77. Sosa) - Schweinsteiger, Ribéry – Toni) only Schweinsteiger and Ribery are left from the side.

Bayern Munich have since then build a new team under Louis van Gaal and Jupp Heynckes with own players like Thomas Müller and David Alaba integrated into the squad or star signing like Mario Gomez , Arjen Robben or Javi Martinez made; while own talent who simply weren’t good enough for the top level in Europe - Christian Lell and Andreas Ottl, released.

Bayern Munich have learned their lessons over the last few years. Made the necessary changes, now is the time to take on the best, which is FC Barcelona and prove that they are the new top team of European club football.

Though in Munich, FC Bayern are totally focused on hosting FC Barcelona, the pending tax evasion case against club president Uli Hoeness is dominating the German media since it was made public on Saturday. The semifinals against Barcelona have been titled by Bayern Munich officials and players as the tie of the season, but it has lost some of its sheen, then Mr. FC Bayern – Uli Hoeness has lost his innocence and integrity for which he stood over the last 35 years since he was general manager, director of sports and president of the club of Germany’s most successful football club.

As Bayern fans say, “Mia san Mia” meaning “we are who we are” and tonight the players will have to prove it against Barcelona.

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