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FCB pledge return to goal trail against Aris

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FCB pledge return to goal trail against Aris

Postby FCBayernNews » Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:25 pm


Bayern will spend Christmas atop the Bundesliga and have just 90 competitive minutes to play in the year 2007, but no-one at the club will entertain any thoughts of the festive season until after Wednesday evening’s European showdown with Aris Salonika (<b>Live in English from 8.30pm on Web Radio</b>), where victory would see the Reds finish the UEFA Cup group phase on top of the standings. “Winning the group would make it a perfect Christmas,” Uli Hoeneß commented.

A draw against the side lying fifth in the Greek top flight would see Bayern safely through to the knockout stages, but only as the second or third placed team in the section. The consequences of defeat are almost unthinkable: should Braga beat Belgrade in the parallel fixture, Germany’s most successful club would be dumped out of the competition.

<b>Negative opponents, again</b>

“Our clear target is to finish first,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld intoned, “it brings so many benefits. In the Round of 32, you play a team which finished third in their group, with the first match away from home.“ The ‘reward’ for finishing second, on the other hand, is a tie against one of the eight clubs eliminated after the Champions League group phase.

Bayern are keen to banish such pessimistic thoughts as early as possible on Wednesday evening. “An early goal would be worth its weight in gold, it would relieve all the pressure,” Hitzfeld observed, although the Greeks are certain not to play ball on that score. The men from Thessaloniki were usually extremely defensive away from home, the coach remarked. “I’m assuming we’ll have to unpick a deep-lying defence.“

<b>Ready to take risks</b>

Bayern have struggled against teams employing exactly those tactics recently, with four goalless draws in their last seven league fixtures. The General called on his men to show “more ruthlessness in the box“ and “take more risks“ in their passing. “We want to play well for the crowd, and get back to scoring goals,” advised Luca Toni, “we’ll try and make it one of our greatest games.“

However, no-one is underestimating the midweek opposition. “Talk of minnows would be completely out of place. They have some good players, and they’ve already done well in the UEFA Cup,” warned Miroslav Klose. Like Bayern, the Greeks are undefeated in Group F with a win and two draws. “They run hard and tackle aggressively, they’re technically adept and capable of good football,” Hitzfeld commented, “the line-up includes plenty of Spaniards and Brazilians.“

<b>Kahn, Lucio and Toni to return</b>

It is the final match before the mid-season break, Hitzfeld reminded his players, “so we should give it one last, huge effort. The plan is to get at them early, not allow them to start playing, and give their defence plenty to do.“ In picking the line-up, Hitzfeld will be grateful for the return of a key trio: Oliver Kahn has completed his club suspension, while Lucio has completed a four-match ban, which in any case only applied to the Bundesliga. Finally, Toni has shaken off a hamstring problem.

“We’re the home team, and we should play to our strengths. That’ll win us the game,” a confident Klose insisted. A return to the goal trail, a win and first place in the group would be a fine early present for the crowd, “and we’d feel good about enjoying Christmas too,” Toni concluded.

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

<b>Bayern Munich:</b> Kahn - Lell, Lucio, Demichelis, Lahm - Schweinsteiger, van Bommel, Zé Roberto, Ribéry - Klose, Toni
<b>Also in matchday squad:</b> Rensing, Van Buyten, Sagnol, Ottl, Sosa, Schlaudraff, Podolski

<b>Aris Salonika:</b> Chalkias - Neto, Ppadopoulos, Marco Aurelio, Ronaldo - Nemplegeras, Clavo, Garcia, Javito, Pritas - Koke

<b>Referee:</b> Alon Yefet (Israel)
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