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Seven reasons why Bayern will go through

Thursday evening, 8.30 p.m., Belenenses versus Bayern. For the German league leaders, according to coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, this is “the hardest game of the year” so far. Everything is riding on it. Following the 1-0 victory in the first leg in Munich, Bayern are anxious to clinch their qualification for the group phase of the UEFA Cup. It’s unthinkable that the Reds should crash out in the first round. But don’t worry, has come up with seven reasons why Bayern will go through.

1. The form book:
A look at the Bundesliga table says it all – right now Bayern are top of the class. Hitzfeld’s unbeaten team has topped the league since the first match day, and no other team has won more games (six), scored more goals (22) or conceded fewer (three). With a goal difference of 19 after eight rounds of the championship, the Munich side have left behind their own league record from 1972-73. It’s quite the contrary for Belenenses. Last weekend the Portuguese celebrated just their second win of the season after six matches, and in the league cup they were knocked out by a team third from bottom of the second division.

2. The first-leg position:

Sure, the 1-0 lead from the first leg is a narrow one, but one goal is a significant advantage for the return. Now Belenenses must take the initiative to make up the deficit. To do so, the Portuguese will have to be more positive than in the first leg and looser at the back – which in turn could play into Bayern’s hands. Just one more goal would throw the door to the group phase wide open for the men from Munich. “It’s important for us to score a goal, because then Belenenses would have t get three to go through – and that won’t happen,” assured Michael Rensing.

3. Ability on the break:
Right now Bayern are the strongest counter-attacking team in the Bundesliga. Four times already the Reds have scored on the break, more than any other team. In the final training session before the game in Lisbon Hitzfeld set his players to practising counter-attacking moves again. “The key is our defensive solidity and a rapid switch from defence into attack,” he said. Given the attacking approach expected from the home side, his team’s ability on the break could be decisive in Lisbon’s Estadio do Restelo (see point 1).

4. The 1-0 specialist:
Score one goal and keep it tight at the back – those are the tactics for which Italian teams are notorious. It’s no surprise, then, to find that an Italian happens to be Bayern’s 1-0 specialist. Luca Toni has given the Reds a 1-0 lead four times in the past seven Bundesliga games, as well as laying on Bayern’s first goal in the runaway win in Bremen and setting up Bayern’s equalizer against Schalke. Naturally, it was Toni who scored the only goal of the first leg against Belenenses. Another in Lisbon would be half the battle won.

5. Bayern’s record against the Portuguese:
Portuguese teams are among Bayern’s favourite opponents in European competition; out of 18 matches against them the Reds have won 10, with seven drawn. Only once has Bayern left the field the losers against a Portuguese club, the 2-1 defeat by Porto in the Champions’ Cup final on May 27, 1987. However, that match was played in Vienna – Bayern are still unbeaten in eight matches on Portuguese soil, winning three and drawing five.

6. Michael Rensing:
Oliver Kahn is missing in Lisbon through injury, but his replacement diminishes Bayern’s chances of success not a whit. Michael Rensing is unbeaten in his 14 Bundesliga matches so far with 10 wins and four draws, and he’s not finished on the losing side in European competition either. Twice he played in goal against AC Milan in the Champions League, and twice the game ended in a draw. Why should this change in the UEFA Cup?

7. Bastian Schweinsteiger:
If there’s a Portugal expert in the Bayern side, it’s Bastian Schweinsteiger. Last season the midfielder scored the only goal in Bayern’s Champions’ League victory over Sporting, and a few months earlier he was involved in all three goals scored by Germany in the World Cup third place play-off against Portugal, scoring twice from long range and forcing a Portuguese defender to concede an own goal. Thursday will give ‘Schweini’ the opportunity to add to his personal tally against the Portuguese.

Nikolaus Heindl reports for