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Hitzfeld: “The most important game of the year”

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Hitzfeld: “The most important game of the year”

Postby FCBayernNews » Thu Oct 04, 2007 7:23 am


Ultimately everything was the same as ever. The day before the game the team flew to their destination on a jet chartered from commercial partner Lufthansa. On board as well were as usual a good number of sponsors and distinguished supporters. The final training session took place as ever the evening before in the stadium of the home team. And as a venue Lisbon would grace the Champions’ League. “The routine is exactly the same as in the Champions’ League,” noted head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

But while it might have the air of Europe’s premier club competition, this time it’s ‘just’ the UEFA Cup and a first round, second leg tie against CF Os Belenenses. “We have to swallow our disappointment and make sure we achieve our ambitions in this competition,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on Wednesday morning before the departure of the flight. The minimum target is to reach the group stage, but after a narrow 1-0 victory in the first leg, on Thursday evening in the Estadio do Restelo Bayern will be under more pressure than is comfortable.

<B>No first leg cushion</B>

“It would be a huge disappointment to go out in the first round,” Rummenigge said. That’s why Hitzfeld spoke of “the most important game of the year” for his team. “1-0 is a satisfactory result, but a dangerous one,” the Bayern coach added. “A 1-0 win is not a good cushion,” said general manager Uli Hoeneß circumspectly. “This will be a hard job for us.”

What’s more, Bayern are not going into their first away UEFA Cup match for 11 years with a full-strength line-up. After Oliver Kahn, who underwent an operation on his injured elbow in the United States on Wednesday, and top scorer Miroslav Klose (a painful bruise to his shin), at the last minute Hitzfeld also has to cope without Lukas Podolski. The potential replacement for Klose was unable to travel because of flu.

<B> Schweinsteiger fit to play</B>

At least Bastian Schweinsteiger got the all-clear on Wednesday evening. The midfielder, who had been suffering from a calf injury, came through the training session in the Estadio do Restelo without problems and so is available for selection, along with Mark van Bommel, who has problems with his little toe. “I should be able to play,” said the Dutchman. “Obviously it’s not great to lose top players like Kahn and Klose, but there’s no use complaining,” Rummenigge said. “The others have to show that they’re good enough for Bayern.”

Kahn’s replacement Michael Rensing has already demonstrated that often enough, most recently during Saturday’s 1-0 win in Leverkusen. The former German Under-21 goalkeeper enjoys the complete confidence of the club staff and of his team-mates. “We must stay fully concentrated in order to keep a clean sheet,” Rensing said confidently of the task ahead. “We’ll get our chances at the other end.”

<B>Ribéry in the hole</B>

Belenenses set out their stall solely to defend in the first leg in Munich, but Bayern are hoping to encounter a more attacking-minded opponent this time, leaving more space for the counter-attack. “We have to stay compact and then break swiftly out of defence,” Hitzfeld said. If Bayern score a goal, it will leave Belenenses needing three. “They won’t manage that against us,” Franck Ribéry is convinced.

Like a few times already this season, the Frenchman will again play in the hole behind a lone striker and will lead Bayern’s counter-attacks from the midfield. In training over the past few days Hitzfeld has been practising this approach intensively. “Overall Bayern believe they are well prepared for the game in the Portuguese capital. “Now we know our opponents and how strong they are,” said Hitzfeld, who has had Belenenses watched repeatedly since the first leg. “We are very well informed about them,” Rensing said.

<B>No thoughts about elimination</B>

In the Bayern camp there is no thought given to unpleasant surprises. “We are flying to Lisbon confident that we have the strength to qualify for the group phase,” said the head coach. “If we play to our ability, we will do it.” Adds Van Bommel: “It’s a tough game, but we simply must go through. It doesn’t matter how we do it.” And Uli Hoeneß said: “We’re not even thinking about elimination. We’re going there to get a result.”

<i>Dirk Hauser reports for <b></b> from Lisbon</i>

<B>Possible line-ups:

Belenenses:</b> Costinha - Candido Costa, Devic, Rolando, Hugo Alcantara - Amorim, José Pedro, Alvim - Silas - Roncatto, Evandro, Paulista

<b>FC Bayern:</b> Rensing - Lell, Lucio, Demichelis, Jansen - Altintop, Van Bommel, Zé Roberto, Schweinsteiger - Ribéry - Toni

<b>Also in the squad:</b> Dreher, Van Buyten, Ottl, Kroos, Wagner, Schlaudraff

<b>Referee:</b> Jacek Granat (Poland)
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