Champions League 2014: Bayern Munich face first big test against AS Roma

Berlin, Oct 21 (IANS) German League champions Bayern Munich face their first biggest test of 2014-15 season so far when they take on Italian side AS Roma in the Champions League Group E match Tuesday.

In contrast to other German clubs like Borussia Dortmund (Group D), Bayer Leverkusen (Group C) and Schalke 04 (Group G), Bayern is handling the post World Cup hangover with ease, reports Xinhua.

Whilst Bayern is sitting pretty on top of the domestic league, Dortmund is in a crisis at the bottom, Leverkusen is not living up to expectations and Schalke have just appointed Roberto Di Mateo, an experienced Champions League campaigner, to turn things around.

The big question for Bayern is can they transfer their domestic dominance to the international stage.

The encounter against Roma is the first serious test as the second-placed team in the Italian league is regarded as the strongest team of the group next to the Germans after their two victories against Manchester City (1-0) and CSKA Moscow (1-0). It is an eagerly awaited duel and Bayern are fully focused for it.

Things are also looking up on the post 2014 World Cup injury front at the German club. Despite key midfielder Thiago suffering a injury, French star Franck Ribery has returned to the team, so has midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Bayern’s strategy – not to get into problems after a major tournament – is built on various experiences which go back to the 1974-75 season.

Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and five Bayern players of the 1974 World Cup winning side lost their first game 0-6 in the German League to the minnows Kickers Offenbach and eventually finished the league in the 10th spot.

“It’s something like that you never forget,” said Rummenigge who was in Bayern’s squad at the time.

This time though the aim is not to get into trouble. “We decided to talk about the problem before 2014 World Cup started in order to be prepared,” said Rummenigge.

Bayern are counting on the experience of coach Pep Guardiola who managed to overcome the very same problems during his time in charge of Barcelona as he won the Champions League in 2008-2009 (after Euro 2008) and 2010-11 (after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa) as well as the Spanish League on both occasions.

Together with Guardiola, Bayern planned to put together a big squad for the post World Cup season to avoid any problems. Guardiola has also finely tuned the training so as to give his players the necessary rest as well as rotating his team to enable his key players to have a break.

Bayern’s Director of Football Matthias Sammer started to talk about the controversial topic right after Germany won the World Cup final against Argentina.

“This is a sensitive theme we have to face and we have to prepare ourselves. We have to counteract it right from the start,” said Sammer.

Former Bayern coach Felix Magath was sacked Jan 1, 2007, after the team did not live up to expectations after the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The same happened to current Manchester United coach Louis Van Gaal who was fired in April 2011 after he failed to win the German title after the 2010 World Cup due to injury and motivation problems.

Having gone through a similar situation back in Barcelona, Guardiola quickly paid attention to the club’s worries.

Against, Roma, the statistics look good as Bayern have won three of their four games against them. Only in the 2010-11 season did Bayern lose to Rome 2-3 in Italy.

“Our aim is to win the group,” said striker Thomas Mueller. To achieve the aim, Bayern coach Guardiola is counting on solid four-man defence (Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Dante, David Alaba) with Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso as defensive midfielders to stop the attacking-minded Rome team.

Arjen Robben, Mueller and Mario Goetze are expected to be the three midfielders with Robert Lewandowski up front. Ribery is likely to be on the bench and come on to change the game should the need arise.

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