Debutants Rostov respectful but confident
Much is new for FC Rostov as the Russians prepare for their Champions League debut, but the players will at least not have to acclimatise to the weather, as it remains summery both in Munich and in the visitors' home town some 2,100 kilometres away. However, the Bavarians' home ground has clearly made an immediate impression, as Rostov boss Ivan Daniliants freely admitted on the eve of Wednesday's group stage opener against FC Bayern. "Playing in front of so many fans won't be easy, and Bayern are one of the best teams in the world in every respect."
However, the Russian runners-up arrive at the Arena with their confidence high. Daniliants is busily extending the fairytale ascent initiated by his predecessor Kurban Berdyev 18 months ago. The former supremo rapidly transformed relegation candidates into genuine contenders on the European stage. Rostov eliminated Champions League perennials RSC Anderlecht 4-2 on aggregate in qualifying, but just prior to the final play-off against Amsterdam giants Ajax, Berdyev unexpectedly quit. Interim boss Dmitri Kirichenko guided his men to a 5-2 success over two legs against Ajax, before Daniliants was appointed on a permanent basis last Friday.
Neuer: They're experienced
"They're very experienced and they beat Ajax, which proves they can play football," warned Manuel Neuer. Five of Rostov's senior players are over 30, including 1.96m (6 ft 5 in), 36-year-old Spanish defender César Navas, who has 54 European appearances under his belt. Daniliants explained the philosophy that has driven the club to unimagined heights: "We approach every game as if it was our last! That's why we are where we are."
The men from Munich must beware Ecuadorean schemer Christian Noboa, the Russians' top scorer in CL qualifying with three goals. Strikers Dmitri Poloz and Sardar Azmoun scored two apiece. "When we travel to a match, we don't want to lose," declared Poloz, "we're here to take points." However, the goal-getter is aware of the severity of the task: "Bayern don't have a single weak player. Every one of them is dangerous." For all that, the 63-year-old Daniliants finished on an upbeat note: "We're well prepared."