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Cup clash in Jena

Eight missing as FCB open title defence

Carlo Ancelotti’s first game in the DFB Cup is also a journey back in time. In October 1980 Ancelotti faced Carl Zeiss Jena with AS Roma in the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Following Roma’s 3-0 win in the first leg the Italians appeared certain to progress, but the team from Thuringia prevailed 4-0 at the Ernst-Abbé-Sportfeld and went through to the next round.

“In the course of a career, some defeats are unforgettable,” the FC Bayern coach said on Thursday, the eve of his return to Jena, where the DFB Cup holders play their first round tie in this season’s competition at 20.45 CET on Friday. “I’m delighted to be going back 36 years later,” commented the Italian, well aware of what lies in wait for him and his men.

“You always get surprises in the cup, in every country,” said the 57-year-old, who has previously won the Italian, English and Spanish versions of the national knockout competition. “We know the big teams have to watch out wherever they go. We’re favourites but we have to be careful. We have to be focused, because tomorrow’s game is important to us.”

Thiago and Alonso sidelined

However, Ancelotti is without eight of his senior players. Jérôme Boateng, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa, Holger Badstuber, Renato Sanches and Kingsley Coman were already confirmed absentees, and they have been joined by Thiago and Xabi Alonso, who both picked up “minor knocks” in the Supercup trip to Borussia Dortmund. “They can’t play tomorrow,” Ancelotti confirmed.

Jena approach what their coach Mark Zimmermann described as a “goosebump match” with a full-strength squad. The men from the east have a perfect record in the north-east regional league so far with the maximum 12 points from four matches, eight goals scored and none conceded. The part-timers are up for the big cup clash: “We’re not afraid of Bayern. The opposite in fact, we’re looking forward to the huge challenge,” Zimmermann declared.

“We know what the people in Jena are thinking. It’s great when you draw FC Bayern in the first round. I guess everyone in Jena was thrilled,” acknowledged Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, knowing the meeting with the holders will be the biggest game of the season for the fourth-tier club. However, Lahm insisted, FCB’s intention is to poop the local party: “I think we’ve handled the first round well in recent years. We’ve controlled the matches, kept it tight and scored our goals.”