Bayern Munich are the favorites going into the round of the last 16 tie against Arsenal, the Premier League club, on Wednesday evening, not just because of the statistics.
The Bavarian outfit is counting on its ability to be top fit when it matters.
Of their last ten games, Munich won five, drew two and lost three. While the club is sitting pretty at the top of the Bundesliga, Arsenal on the other hand are going through a sticky patch and coach Arsene Wenger finds himself under attack.
But, as club President Uli Hoeness admitted, the Bavarian side is biting its nail at the thought of hosting Arsenal in the first leg.
Ones don’t often hear the Bayern president speak about him being nervous. In a TV interview Hoeness talked about a recent meeting, he and club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had with head coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“Well, we told him, we are a little bit nervous,” Hoeness said in a subdued mood after Bayern’s team lately did deliver narrow winning results but was far from convincing in its performances.
Under Ancelotti the team is far from that sort of dominant football Hoeness admired when Pep Guardiola was in charge.
“Ancelotti smiled, was as firm as a rock and flooded with optimism,” Hoeness told the audience with a shrug.
Ancelotti has been repeating his conviction that the team will be ready when it counts. Now the moment has come to place all the cards on the table.
“Gentlemen, please wait. We have important games ahead of us and it’s crunch time,” said Hoeness when reporting on what the club coach said. “In contrast to us two, he is so relaxed,” Hoeness said.
At a press conference in Munich, Ancelotti was smiling and joking most of the time, for instance insisting “we will play with eleven players”.
However, the 57-year-old Italian spoke about his football philosophy, “It would be nice to play better, but the game is more than aesthetics. It is about results, tactics and passion. You can’t always come up with a footballing festival, but you have to deliver results.”
Ancelotti’s optimism has obviously been transferred to his player’s minds. Both midfielder Arturo Vidal and Robert Lewandowski were convinced the team is “waiting for games like that”.
Polish striker Lewandowski said, “The team will give everything we have and we’ ll go through.”
Vidal expects Arsenal to run the game and play football. “Most teams in the league play only defensively against us which leaves no space. Arsenal hopefully will be different,” the Chilean said.
Ancelotti goes into the battle without the services of Franck Ribery, Jerome Boateng and most likely Xabi Alonso but Rummenigge is said to also now share the coach’s optimism.
“He has the experience of over 100 Champions League games and has often been in similar situations. We trust both the team and coach,” the former striker said.
Former Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld added, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Bayern is in top form for the crunch games.”
Having to face Arsenal first at home and then travel to London for the second leg means a narrow victory won’t be enough this time around.
“We intend to gain some breathing space before we go into the second match at Arsenal,” said Bayern’s team captain Philipp Lahm. “It’s something team and coach are focused on.”
In contrast to the last league game against FC Ingolstadt, Ancelotti’s tactical approach will center on attacking down the flanks with Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa on the right and left respectively.
There will be no place for Thomas Mueller in the starting eleven. Should Alonso not be fit in time, Joshua Kimmich could be Ancelotti’s first choice in a 4-2-3-1 system.
An important factor will be the performance of central midfielder Thiago who will be given the job of linking the midfield and the attack.
For Ancelotti, the line-up does not seem to matter much. “Decisive in a game like the one coming up is one’s character,” said the Italian star coach. Enditem
Source: Oliver Trust,Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh