Created on 13-09-2010 at 00:00 AM
Bayern open their Champions League campaign against Italian runners-up AS Roma on Wednesday, but the German double winners are still some way off peak form after taking only four points from their first three Bundesliga fixtures and failing to score in their last two. “A number of my players still aren’t 100 percent fit,” Louis van Gaal observed after Saturday’s goalless stalemate against Werder Bremen.
FCB now aim to kick-start this season’s campaign against the men from the Italian capital, and may call in reinforcements from the bench to do so. “It may be that I’ll give some different players a chance,” the coach commented, although he declined to reveal who he might have in mind for the Allianz Arena clash.
Ribéry’s absence a blow
There will be at least one enforced change to Saturday’s line-up, as Franck Ribéry serves out the last match of a suspension following his sending-off in last term’s semi-final home leg against Olympique Lyon. “Not being able to play is very disappointing,” the 26-year-old told kicker magazine: “I hope we win, because it’s important to open with three points in this competition.”
“Obviously we’ll miss Franck, especially with he form he’s in,” acknowledged Thomas Müller. Ribéry provided plenty of examples of his technical brilliance on Saturday. “It’s a blow, but we’ve always known he’d be out of this match, and all the squad players are burning for a chance,” continued Müller, “overall, it won’t reduce our quality by that much.” Holger Badstuber was equally confident: “Last season, we showed often enough that we can cover for the absence of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben.”
Vacancy on the left
Hamit Altintop is a strong candidate to stand in for Ribéry. The Turkey midfielder put in a sterling display in the position away to Lyon in last season’s semi-final return, and also started on the left flank in the Champions League final. Other options include Danijel Pranjic, or a switch to the left for Ivica Olic. Then again, the Bayern coach may have an entirely different solution up his sleeve.
Regardless of the final composition of the team, Bayern’s target is clear enough. “I’d like us to win and make a positive start in the Champions League. It would give us the assurance and confidence we need at the moment,” commented director of sport Christian Nerlinger.