Created on 18-03-2008 at 00:00 AM
Bayern are leaving nothing to chance ahead of Wednesday’s DFB German Cup semi-final at home to VfL Wolfsburg (Live in English from 8.15 pm on FCB.tv Web Radio), as evidenced by a spot of penalty practice during final training. “We’re utterly determined to go to Berlin,” commented Ottmar Hitzfeld, who called on his men to make amends for consecutive defeats in the run-up to the Cup clash. “We have to restore our image and give our fans something to cheer.“
Munich are through to the semis for the 20th time, are seeking to make it 16 appearances in the final, and are looking to lift the trophy for the 14th time. “Berlin is our target. It’s always one of the highlights of the season,” remarked Hitzfeld. Lukas Podolski is convinced the men in red will return to winning ways in midweek: “Quite a few of us have never been to Berlin – we’ll all give it everything tomorrow.“
FCB must tame Wolves
Hitzfeld called on his troops to play as a team, attack as a unit and tackle aggressively against their resurgent Bundesliga rivals. “I hope we’ll recover the shape we’ve lost recently and keep it very tight at the back. We must stop Wolfsburg hitting us on the break,” the coach warned.
The Bavarians are aware that their challengers from Lower Saxony will fight until they drop. “It’ll be very, very hard, just like it was against 1860,” admonished Oliver Kahn, certain that Wolfsburg will “throw everything they’ve got“ at the chance of a second trip to the Berlin Olympic stadium to go with their previous final appearance back in 1995. The entire VfL headquarters staff is attending the match at the Allianz Arena, some indication of the importance of the tie to the Wolves.
Wolfsburg in top form
Wolfsburg’s current form has not gone unnoticed at Bayern. Under new coach Felix Magath, who led Bayern to Cup glory in 2005 and 2006, the Wolves have performed with distinction against the league’s top clubs. Hamburg, Schalke and Bremen have all failed to beat Magath’s men in the Bundesliga, and VfL have disposed of both HSV and Schalke en route to the semi-finals.
Wolfsburg travelled to Bremen last Sunday and won by the only goal of the game, making them the best team in the league since the winter break. “Felix Magath has achieved a huge amount, and I want to compliment him on that,” offered Hitzfeld, impressed by VfL’s new-found solidity. “Wolfsburg have traditionally only been strong up front, but they’re much better in defence now too.“
Van Bommel and Demichelis return
Magath refused to fan the emotional flames ahead of his return to the Allianz Arena. “Anything less than a place in the final would rate as a disaster for Bayern. We can forget any ideas that they might underestimate us,” remarked the VfL boss, whose family still live in Munich. “I’m hoping for the kind of display we gave in Bremen. Our central defence was well-organised and structured. That makes us difficult to play against, and very difficult to beat.“
Bayern will be close to full strength in their efforts to tame the Wolves. Luca Toni (suspended) and Willy Sagnol (neck) are sidelined, but Mark van Bommel returns from a Bundesliga ban, and Martin Demichelis is back in the squad following a club suspension. “We’ll really have to work hard,” urged Kahn ahead of the last Cup semi-final of his career. The team is determined to grant their skipper a final run-out at the Olympic stadium. “We’re at home, we’re Bayern Munich, we want a place in the final,“ Bastian Schweinsteiger declared.