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"It's about who wants it more"

Top spot up for grabs in Amsterdam showdown

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“Pack ma’s” (Bavarian dialect for “let’s do this”) stood in big, white letters on a red background behind Hasan Salihamidzic as he spoke to journalists before boarding the plane to Amsterdam for the team’s Champions League match against Ajax. And Bayern’s sporting director backed up the club’s motto as he set out the objective for the match: “We most certainly want to win!”

First place in Group E is the prize in Wednesday evening’s meeting with the record Dutch champions (live on Webradio and ticker from 21:00 CET on A draw will be enough for Bayern, but Salihamidzic declared that “we want to win and give a good account of ourselves”. Niko Kovac was in agreement with his sporting director: “We’re top and we want to stay top, that’s our objective.”

No Robben

First place “is very important for the last 16 because in theory you get an easier draw. But anything’s tough after the group stage in the Champions League,” stressed Salihamidzic ahead of the flight. Arjen Robben did not make the journey to the Johan Cruijff ArenA due to injury, meaning Kovac has the same squad at his disposal as he did for the 3-0 win against 1. FC Nürnberg at the weekend.

In any case, the Reds coach is not planning to make major changes to his line-up. “The team have found their feet,” said Kovac, who’s pleased with the performance of his side in recent games – particularly the defence. “We’ve been much more solid,” he praised, knowing his defenders could be in for a busy night in Amsterdam.

Big-name opponents

It finished 1-1 when the two sides met at the Allianz Arena and the Dutch outfit impressed with refreshing and bold attacking football. With 11 points from five matches, Ajax have recorded the second-best group stage in the club’s history and qualified for the last 16 of the competition for the first time since the 2005/06 campaign. “We’re up against strong opposition,” warned Kovac. “They’re a very, very good side. Ajax are a world-renowned name, so it won’t be an easy game. Both teams will be fired up – mine certainly are.”

Bayern appear determined to round off the group stage with a win and top spot. “It’s about who wants it more and who delivers the better performance. I hope that it’s us,” commented Serge Gnabry. On that note, pack ma’s!