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Bayern keen to get going on knockout round

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Bayern keen to get going on knockout round

Postby FCBayernNews » Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:10 pm

By the time Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stood up to address the traditional midnight banquet following the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Manchester City, most of the guests at Worsley Park hotel had already consigned the evening match to history. It was merely the formal conclusion to a smooth group stage campaign, in which Bayern sealed top spot and a place in the last sixteen with a match to spare.

"We announced the only news which matters after our last game: we'd comfortably won the group with 13 points and qualified for the next round," said Rummenigge, complementing boss Jupp Heynckes and the players on achieving the "interim target". The FCB chairman expressed a wish for "a bit of luck in the draw" when the pairings for the Round of 16 are made in Nyon on 16 December, "and we'll need it too, because we want to go a long way. Now it starts for real!"

Rummenigge had "not a lot to say" about FCB's first defeat in the group stage. Boss Heynckes made no fewer than seven changes to his starting line-up for the meeting with the English Premier League leaders, ranked among the favourites for Europe's elite competition before a ball was kicked. However, despite Wednesday night's victory, City failed to progress from Group A and now join local rivals Manchester United in the Europa League.

Against the star-studded Blues, who had to win to preserve their slim hopes of the runners-up spot, Munich's makeshift side emerged with great credit. "We had big selection problems tonight. The team I sent out gave a convincing, battling display. My players gave everything," a satisfied Heynckes summarised. "When you consider that this line-up has never played together before, it was a very decent, fighting performance," echoed director of sport Christian Nerlinger, "it was very acceptable stuff against top-quality opponents."

Boss dismisses talk of B-team

"Even with this team, we were still looking to win," continued Nerlinger, "but at the end of the day, we weren't able to apply enough pressure in attack and score a goal of our own." Heynckes brushed aside the accusation of fielding a below-strength side in a meaningless final group fixture: "I really don't like this talk of a B-team. That was a professional line-up including seven current full internationals."

The unfamiliar Bayern side effectively stifled the potent Blues attack for very long spells. The Bavarians closed down space and maintained tight defensive discipline, always posing a threat on sporadic counter-attacks. "We had a relatively inexperienced team out there tonight, but we still did pretty well," commented Nils Petersen. "We've lost, but I think we've given a good account of ourselves. We weren't just up against any old opponents," reasoned former City man Jerome Boateng.

Focus on Stuttgart

The pattern changed decisively once David Silva put the home side in front after 37 minutes, and Roberto Mancini's men could well have led by more at half-time. Yaya Touré doubled the lead seven minutes after the restart, but news of Napoli's opener away to Villarreal filtered through on the hour, and glum silence fell over the home majority in the 46,002 at Etihad Stadium. Once the Italians wrapped it up at 2-0, City's fate was sealed and the appetite for further action on the field waned.

All this was of little consequence to the Bayern camp, where the focus switched to future challenges: first, next week's draw, "and we'll take it as it comes," Heynckes remarked. Even more imminently, there is Sunday's trip to VfB Stuttgart. "And it's especially important we get back to winning again immediately," urged Thomas Müller.
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