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Starting to gel

Gala ushers in make-or-break week

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A new line of Bayern jelly sweets was distributed to the media ahead of Thursday’s match at the Allianz Arena, featuring red and white gummi bears, and a special “champions mix“ in the shape of the championship shield and the German Cup. The manufacturer might like to consider commissioning the moulds for a UEFA Cup bonbon before too long, as Bayern took another long stride towards the continental trophy with a gala display on Thursday evening.

“I’m delighted with the match, the pattern of the game, our football and the result,” Ottmar Hitzfeld told the news conference after watching his side trounce Aberdeen 5-1 to claim a berth in the last sixteen. The Bayern coach radiated contentment to a degree not seen for a fair while as he patrolled the mixed zone at the Allianz Arena afterwards.

Calderwood: They taught us a lesson

Hitzfeld was not the only satisfied man on the night. “It was a fantastic game for the crowd. Both teams attacked from the start,” commented general manager Uli Hoeneß. The 60,000 Bayern fans were royally entertained by five goals, from Lucio (12), Daniel van Buyten (36), Lukas Podolski (71, 77) and Mark van Bommel (85), and at least a dozen more flowing attacking moves. “It was a real gala for our supporters,” Hoeneß enthused.

The 6,000-strong Aberdeen contingent among the capacity crowd were anything but silenced by events on the pitch, and enjoyed a moment to savour when sub Steve Lovell headed a consolation (83). “We’ve been taught a lesson today by a very good Bayern team,” Aberdeen boss Jimmy Calderwood freely admitted, “in my opinion, Bayern are one of the favourites to win the competition.“

HSV, 1860, S04 and then Anderlecht

Following the 2-2 draw between the sides a week earlier at Pittodrie, Hitzfeld’s men progressed on an ultimately comfortable 7-3 aggregate and will now be regarded as favourites to overcome RSC Anderlecht in the Round of 16. However, before the Bavarians travel to Brussels on 6 March and then entertain the Belgian champions in Munich six days later, they must negotiate a trio of pivotal matches on the domestic front.

“We have a vital game on Sunday against Hamburg, and then we finally want to beat 1860 Munich again on Wednesday,” Hoeneß remarked. Just three days after the Cup derby against the Lions, the men in red travel to face arch-rivals Schalke 04 in the league. “It’ll be an interesting week for us,” mused Willy Sagnol with masterful understatement.

Hoeneß: It’s coming together

The recent impressive victories in Hanover and at home to Aberdeen have sent Bayern’s confidence soaring. “As we saw today, the three goals in Hanover did the team a power of good. We have more belief in ourselves, and we’re really coming together as a unit,” Hoeneß said. Hitzfeld rotated his squad in a number of positions, with double goalscorer Podolski putting forward an especially strong case. “We have a strong squad, all of them good enough to make the team," Hitzfeld summarised.

Nine players left the club last summer with the same number of new arrivals, but Hoeneß now feels the restructured team has begun to gel: “In the second half in Hanover and for long spells here tonight, we’ve seen something coming together.“ With a lot of work and a bit of luck, the fat-free edible trophies will be replaced by the real things in the press club at the Allianz Arena before too long.