Created on 22-10-2013 at 14:45 PM
Wednesday evening, a quarter to nine at night, the Allianz Arena floodlights blazing, the famous anthem - it’s Champions League time again in Munich. On Matchday 3 in Group D, holders Bayern entertain Czech champions Viktoria Plzen in the first of two meetings in the next 14 days. After the 3-0 victory against CSKA Moscow and the 3-1 triumph away to Manchester City in the first two preliminary stage fixtures, a third straight win would see the Bundesliga leaders take a giant stride towards a place in the first knockout round.
“We’re in a very, very good position with six points from two games. Naturally, we want to kick on from here,” declared club captain Philipp Lahm on Tuesday following FCB’s final pre-match training session at the Säbener Strasse. “If you take 12 points from the first four matches you’re normally through to the Round of 16,” noted coach Pep Guardiola in the build-up to the double-header against the Czechs, although the boss was reluctant to look too far into the future: “First of all, we have to play the first match against Plzen.”
Lahm: We’re taking it very seriously
Wednesday’s visitors, who are currently second in their domestic Premier League behind Sparta Prague, lost their first two Champions League group fixtures and are under some pressure ahead of the trip to Munich. Should they lose again, third place and a tilt at the Europa League after Christmas could already slip from their grasp, so Lahm issued an explicit warning against underestimating the visitors. “We’re taking them very seriously. This is the Champions League and we’re looking for our next three points.“
Arjen Robben backed his captain to the hilt. “They’re not coming to Munich just to hand over the points,” he admonished. “They played very well in the first half against Man City,” Guardiola reminded reporters. The 42-year-old coach feels Viktoria transition very effectively between defence and attack. “If we give them time to think they could be very good. It depends on us,” continued Guardiola, calling on his men to seize the initiative from the start: “I’m expecting my team to give it their best shot.”
Ribéry declared fit
There was good news for the home side on the eve of the match when Franck Ribéry reported fit after shaking off an ankle sprain. “Franck is okay and trained very well today,” Guardiola announced. The European Footballer of the Year could well resume duty in his normal position out wide on the left. Guardiola declined to reveal who might drop to the bench to make way for the France star.
Nor would the Spaniard confirm whether Mario Götze, universally hailed for a gala second-half performance against Mainz on Saturday, might be a candidate for the starting line-up. “Mario played very well and he’s improving every day. But I don’t know how many minutes he might get,” commented Guardiola, who will make enforced changes at centre-back. Dante is out after sustaining a gashed foot against Mainz, and Jérôme Boateng serves a one-match suspension following his dismissal away to City.
Daniel van Buyten and Jan Kirchhoff would be the obvious stand-in centre-back pairing, but Diego Contento was a makeshift central defender for a half against Mainz and offers an additional option. Javi Martínez, who resumed parts of the squad training programme on Sunday, is not yet ready for a start. Guardiola will wait until the day of the match before deciding whether to hand his fellow-countryman a seat on the subs’ bench.