FCB primed for ‘special atmosphere’
Munich and Piraeus, where Bayern play their 2015/16 Champions League opener on Wednesday evening, are some 1,500 kilometres apart as the crow flies. However, the city which serves as the port of Greek capital Athens is in fact closer to the Bavarian metroplois than we might think.
That's thanks to the letter 'Y' for example, which appears in the name Bayern and on the club emblem. Almost 200 years ago in 1825, then King of Bavaria Ludwig I decreed the correct spelling of the state's name to be Bayern and not Baiern. The royal wanted to pay homage to Greek culture. A couple of years later, Ludwig's son Otto became the first King of Greece. His residence in central Athens, now the seat of the national parliament, was built by Friedrich von Gärtner, responsible for Munich's own Victory Arch, University and Feldherr Hall.
All that is of course history. In the present, FCB boast a slender connection to Greece through the likes of Jérôme Boateng, who appeared for Manchester City in a 0-0 draw with Aris Saloniki in February 2011. The centre-back knows full well what kind of crowd the men in red can expect on Wednesday evening. "They hit the gas for 90 minutes! The fans never stop singing and get right behind their team," Jerome reported on the eve of the team's departure for Athens, "it'll be a very hostile atmosphere."
FCB 'must resist'
Thiago is expecting much the same thing. "The fans give everything for their team, like in South America," said the midfielder, whose father Mazinho coached Aris in 2009. Four current FCB men have faced Olympiacos with previous clubs: Xabi Alonso, Mario Götze, Robert Lewandowski and Arturo Vidal. Their cumulative record away to the serial Greek champions is far from impressive with a draw, four defeats and no wins.
As we can see, Olympiacos are not to be underestimated at home. The men from Piraeus have won their last six home games in the Champions League, including victories over Atlético Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United. "It's a big game for Olympiacos. They'll be very aggressive and dig deep," Boateng stated respectfully, "we have to concentrate hard, resist them and show from the start that we intend to win."
An opening day victory in Europe's top club competition would be "a big step," said Thiago, who can hardly wait for kick-off on Wednesday. "We're FC Bayern. We want to hear the Champions League anthem. We want to play these special matches," declared the Spaniard, who travelled to the Greek capital to take on Panathinaikos with Barcelona in November 2010. He was an unused sub on the day, but still came away with a comfortable 3-0 victory.