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'We can do it'

FCB primed for 'biggest game of the season'

Naturally, the Bayern players went over to the travelling fans and joined in the post-match celebrations on Saturday, but the stars headed back to the dressing room almost immediately. Barely five minutes after the final whistle in the away clash with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, the pitch was completely empty. Instead, hidden from the public view, the players gathered around their coach. “He wanted to pull us even closer together one more time. It was a very emotional team talk,” revealed Sebastian Rode. Pep Guardiola had issued a strong rallying cry to his troops: “We want to show the world what we can do on Tuesday.”

Ah yes, Tuesday, a quarter before nine at the Allianz Arena. The return leg of the Champions League quarter-final against FC Porto. As soon as the Hoffenheim fixture came to an end, the focus at FC Bayern was exclusively on the next match. “It’s a final,” commented Guardiola, “we need a great performance. It’ll be tough, but we’ll give it a go. I have lots of faith in my players.” Robert Lewandowski agreed: “The only thing in our heads now is Porto. We can do it.”

Munich’s belief that they can overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg is even stronger following the accomplished display in Hoffenheim. The Reds won 2-0 thanks to a fine 38th-minute goal from the excellent Rode and an Andreas Beck own goal with the last kick of the match. It was a deserved and convincing win, and no other outcome ever looked a possibility, despite the sobering defeat at Porto three days earlier and the looming return three days later.

Big-hearted Munich

“It was a very, very tough mental challenge today. People don’t realise how tough it is to focus on a game like today’s,” remarked Guardiola, lavishing praise on his injury-hit team. “Huge, huge credit to the players. I’m very proud and I want to offer my congratulations. These players have big hearts.”

Manuel Neuer said he was “doubly delighted” with the win, “because it’ll help us put the game in Porto behind us. The important factors were a solid defensive display and creating four or five clear-cut chances. It makes us optimistic about Tuesday.”

“It’s not over yet,” declared Jérôme Boateng, “we’re at home so everything’s possible. The important thing is to keep a clean sheet and ideally score early.” A repeat of the 2-0 victory in Hoffenheim would be enough for Bayern to reach the semi-finals on Tuesday. “We need to go into the match burning with desire, but we mustn’t be over motivated,” suggested Rode. “We know it’s the biggest game of the season,” said Neuer, before concluding with a promise: “Every one of us will do everything he can to make it a good performance.”