Created on 15-09-2015 at 17:30 PM
It’s Champions League time again at last! “It’s just wonderful it’s starting up again. It’s not known as the elite competition for nothing,” said Thomas Müller on the journey to Athens and its port of Piraeus, where Bayern open this season’s campaign away to Greek double winners Olympiacos on Wednesday evening (Live in English from 20:45 CET on Twitter and fcbayern.de free Web Radio). FCB have made the last four of the Champions League for the last four seasons, and again rate among this term’s favourites.
But the first task is to navigate the group stage. “We’ve marched through our group every time in recent years. We want to keep that up,” declared captain Philipp Lahm prior to the group stage meetings with Olympiakos, Dynamo Zagreb and Arsenal, opponents “we daren’t underestimate,” declared Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “We have to concentrate and take it seriously. I’m not thinking about the final. We’d do well to take it step by step and make sure we qualify for the Round of 16.”
FCB keen to avoid upsets
Three points in Piraeus would be the perfect way to set off on the quest. “It keeps things calm,” Lahm said at the international pre-match press conference, held at the team hotel in the late afternoon following the Bayern party’s arrival in Greece. Pep Guardiola spoke of a “first step” that his team were keen to take. “But Olympiacos are strong. The atmosphere is magnificent, and so is the quality of the players. It’s the Champions League, and all the teams are good.”
The Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, lying directly on the shores of the Mediterranean, has not been a happy hunting ground for a number of big clubs in recent years. Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund head a long list of clubs that have left Pireaus empty-handed. “It’s vital we don’t underestimate them. A few big teams have patently done that in the past and been on the end of upsets here,” Rummenigge advised.
Götze declared fit
Bayern must not be unnerved by the hostile atmosphere, the chairman continued: “We want a good start, ideally with a win.” Lahm described Olympiacos as “dangerous” and called for a determined effort: “We need to give it everything from the start. If so, there can only be one winner.”
The captain is set to start after shaking off a minor cold. “I’m 100 percent OK, no worries,” he informed the press conference. A squad of 19 players has travelled to Greece, lacking injury victims Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Mehdi Benatia, Holger Badstuber and Jan Kirchhoff.
Mario Götze missed the Bundesliga victory over Augsburg with a sprain but is fit again and, like all his team-mates, looking forward to the new Champions League campaign. “We’ll give it another go,” Guardiola said.