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Bayern target top spot in Group B

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Bayern target top spot in Group B

Postby FCBayernNews » Tue Nov 21, 2006 7:45 pm

21.11.2006

Bayern are already through to the Champions League first knockout round, but the job is not yet finished, as a victory in their penultimate group fixture away to Spartak Moscow on Wednesday evening (<b>Live in English on FCB.tv Web Radio from 6:15 pm CET</b>) would ensure the German double winners finish top of Group B. "We intend to stay in first place, so we're going there looking to win," chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge declared as the team prepared for the flight from Munich airport.

Bayern have amassed 10 points from four matches so far, ahead of Internazionale (6), Sporting Lisbon (5) and Spartak (1). Munich could no longer be caught should they beat the Russian runners-up, "and the group winners have a tactical advantage," Rummenigge commented, in that the second leg of the knockout round tie would be played at home.

<b>Banishing doubts ahead of Inter clash</b>

"That makes it a very important match. We're determined to come top," Hasan Salihamidzic agreed. "It would take all the pressure off before the last match against Inter." However, Spartak require nothing less than all three points to preserve their already slim chances of finishing third and thus qualifying for the UEFA Cup. Should Munich fall to the Muscovites, the Bavarians could well face a blood and thunder showdown for top spot against the Italian champions.

Coach Felix Magath is convinced his men have gathered enough belief from a good recent run in the Bundesliga to prevent that from happening, although Willy Sagnol sounded a note of caution. "We've come through a tough period, although we've won two in a row now. But it's still too early to claim we're in good form."

<b>Artificial turf controversy rumbles on</b>

Spartak have failed to win in their last 21 Champions League outings, and Bayern convincingly took the home leg 4-0, but Salihamidzic insisted the Russians should not be underestimated. "We had a few problems at home, in the first half at least. And I've played often enough in Moscow, I know it's never easy," the Bosnia star declared. Bayern will take heart from their the last two appearances in the Russian capital, which ended in 3-0 and 3-1 victories.

The controversial subject of the artificial turf at the Luzhniki stadium continues to hit the headlines. "It's scandalous that an association allows this kind of surface," coach Magath fumed. "It can't be right that a team which plays all its matches here enjoys such an extraordinary advantage." Spartak have staged their home fixtures on the new surface for more than a year, whereas Wednesday's match is Bayern's first competitive encounter on artificial turf.

<b>Lahm rested</b>

The Reds are resisting the temptation to blame the pitch in advance. "Obviously it's different, but we're professional footballers and we can cope," Sebastian Deisler intoned. The 26-year-old made a symbolic return to Bundesliga action on Saturday, and is hopeful of an appearance in the Champions League. However, Magath has left Lucio at home because of the artificial pitch. "It would be too risky for him on this surface," the coach glowered. The Brazilian has only just shaken off an ankle ligament injury.

Bayern are also without long-term casualties Owen Hargreaves, Lukas Podolski and Valerien Ismaël, while the exhausted Philipp Lahm is rested. Christian Lell could stand in for the Germany international at left-back, but Magath is otherwise likely to continue with his increasingly effective 4-4-2 formation.

<b>Win would boost UEFA ranking</b>

Quite apart from the UEFA win bonus amounting to €600,000, Rummenigge named another reason for his side to seek victory in the snow-bedecked Russian capital: "We could earn vital points for Germany's UEFA ranking." In the light of European results so far this season, the Bundesliga's third Champions League starting place looks increasingly in danger.

"I believe we started a run in Leverkusen, and we want to keep it going in Moscow," Salihamidzic observed with a final rallying cry to his team-mates: "We have to keep it up now."

<b>Probable line-ups:</b>

<b>Spartak Moscow:</b> Khomich - Jiranek, Geder, Stranzl, Shishkin - Mozart, Kovac - Bystrov, Titov, Boyarinzev - Pavlyuchenko

<b>Bayern Munich:</b> Kahn - Sagnol, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Lell - Ottl - Van Bommel, Salihamidzic - Schweinsteiger - Makaay, Pizarro
<b>Also in matchday squad:</b> Rensing, Saba, Scholl, Karimi, Deisler, Dos Santos, Santa Cruz

<b>Referee:</b> Grzegorz Gilewski (Poland)
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