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Müller: The details will make the difference

FC Bayern approach the Champions League quarter-final first leg away to FC Porto with the bare minimum of selection options but fired by optimism after a fine run of results. The matchday squad for Wednesday’s showdown at Estadio do Dragao (Live in English from 20:45 CET on Twitter and Free Web Radio) will comprise only 17 players including three goalkeepers, but Germany’s biggest club are still determined to come away with a good result ahead of next Tuesday’s decider at the Allianz Arena.

“Unfortunately we have an incredibly large number of injuries. We only have 13 or 14 fit players. The rest are youngsters, some of whom haven’t played professionally yet,” stated FCB chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, aware of the severity of the task against the top Portuguese outfit, who have yet to lose in Europe’s elite club competition this term. “We have to be realistic. We have a very tough game tomorrow evening. We’ll be focused and respectful, and I hope we can secure a decent result.”

Neuer and Boateng return

As has consistently been the case over the last two weeks, boss Pep Guardiola is refusing to lament the absence of so many top players. “The situation is as it is. We’re here with the players we have and we’ll try our best.” It means there is little scope for changes to the team from the 3-0 success against Eintracht Frankfurt last Saturday. Manuel Neuer and Jérôme Boateng were rested and will return in place of Pepe Reina and Mitchell Weiser, but Guardiola has very few other rotation options.

But despite the trying injury situation, FCB are approaching the contest against the two-time European Cup winners “with chests full of pride,” according to Thomas Müller, and the confidence born of three victories in the last ten days. “The games in Dortmund and Leverkusen were experiences which pulled us closer together as a team, and that can obviously help us when we play Porto,” commented Müller, who is expecting “a tight match. Porto aren’t unbeaten by accident. Quarter-finals aren’t the kind of games where you just have to show up and win.”

Porto likely to attack

Guardiola also praised the “high quality” of the club lying second in Portugal. “Porto are a top team. I’m very surprised by their extremely high level. If we’re to make the semi-finals we’ll need not just one but two great performances.” Rummenigge urged FCB to treat their opponents very seriously: “Every club in the quarter-finals has great quality, whether it’s Atletico Madrid or FC Porto, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the last eight. We know we mustn’t underestimate our opponents.”

The tactics favoured by the home team, coached by Guardiola’s fellow Spaniard and former team-mate Julen Lopetegui, are “completely different” compared to standard practice in the Bundesliga, the FCB boss noted. “They’re not a counter-attacking team. They want to play their football. They’re good at pressing high up the field, their transitions are good, and they apply pressure in the final third. We need a big performance, in defence and in attack.”

“Porto have plenty of players who like to be on the ball, who attack and favour the southern European style. I’m hoping we might get more space up front that we do against teams who pull eleven men back into their own penalty box,” observed Müller, Bayern’s all-time top scorer in the Champions League with 26 goals. “I’m looking forward to an interesting game and hopefully lots of chances for us. The details will make the difference, as they so often do.”