Created on 26-11-2018 at 18:08 PM
Next stop, last 16! In their last home game of this season’s Champions League group phase, FC Bayern can book their ticket for the knockout stages with a match to spare. The Munich men lead Group E with 10 points going into their clash with Benfica (4) on Tuesday evening (live on ticker and Webradio from 21:00 CET). Second-placed Ajax (8) travel to AEK Athens (0) in the other fixture.
“We only need a point tomorrow but we want to win,” stated coach Niko Kovac in Monday’s press conference. “We want to make it through to the next stage of the Champions League, and we want to do that tomorrow.” A draw in their penultimate group game will be enough for Kovac’s side to reach the last 16, while three points would take them a step closer to winning the group ahead of their final match in Amsterdam.
After Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga, Kovac is hoping his players rise to the “special challenge” of the Champions League on Tuesday. “I’m confident the boys will perform at their maximum level tomorrow,” commented the 47-year-old, who admitted he’d been “very disappointed and annoyed” by recent results.
For the visitors, who have lost five of their last six away games in the Champions League proper, the trip to Munich is their last chance to keep their qualification hopes alive. “We’re aware that Benfica have to win tomorrow to maintain a realistic chance of qualifying for the last 16,” noted Kovac. He’s therefore expecting the Portuguese outfit to be more attacking than in the reverse fixture but not to “go all-out-attack from the first minute”.
Benfica will be without captain Jardel due to suspension, while Corentin Tolisso and James remain sidelined for FCB. Thiago and Kingsley Coman are not yet ready to make their comebacks from injury and there is also a doubt over Serge Gnabry, who missed the match against Fortuna with an adductor problem. “I think tomorrow will come too soon,” revealed Kovac.
"Unfortunately, injuries to important players have been a feature of our current situation. We’re weakened at the moment and we have to get by with what we’ve got,” added the coach, who still expects his team to win: “We can win the game with the players we have – and I’m sure we will.”