FCB aim to ‘part open’ door to quarter-finals
It’s Champions League time again at last, a full 76 days since Bayern’s 2-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb in their final group stage fixture. Germany’s biggest club play their Round of 16 away leg in Turin on Tuesday evening against arguably the best and most awkward group runners-up, Italian record champions and previous season’s finalists Juventus (Live in English from 20:45 CET on Twitter and on FCB.tv free Web Radio).
“There’s no question it’ll be a tough match and I’m looking forward to it,” declared Karl-Heinz Rummenigge prior to the Munich party’s departure for the north Italian metropolis. The Bayern chairman said the goal for the match at the Juventus Stadium was “a good result in Turin to open the door to the quarter-finals at least part of the way. We’re having a good spell in the Bundesliga and cup. We need to build on that in Turin.”
Juve dangerous from set plays
Rummenigge described the home and away meetings with I Bianconeri as “probably the most interesting games the Round of 16 has to offer. We’ve reached the semi-finals at least in each of the last four seasons, so our sights are set high. But the knockout stage is where the Champions League starts for real. You have to play well, maintain your focus and at the end of the day hopefully make the next round.”
The Serie A leaders are unbeaten in sixteen in the Italian top flight, prompting FCB boss Pep Guardiola to describe Tuesday’s opponents as “one of the best teams in Europe. All their players boast huge experience. It’s a massive clash.” Guardiola urged his men to give “our best performance and play intelligently.” The priorities are to stifle counter-attacks and defend well at set pieces: “Juventus are the best team in Europe at dead ball situations.”
Reunion with Mandzukic
FC Bayern travelled to Italy with 21 fit players, so for the first time in months Guardiola has a number of options for the 18-man matchday squad. “Every player who's with us in Turin could play,” stressed the Catalan, who is likely to field Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba in central defence once again. They will be up against Juve's strong attacking unit featuring Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata and former Munich pro Mario Mandzukic, who has recovered from injury.
“They've done well so far and conceded very few goals despite their height. We trust them,” Rummenigge said about the FCB twosome, who turned in convincing displays in the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup. “And you mustn't forget the players we have up front,” Rummenigge added. “We also have forwards Juve won't be particularly thrilled about. It’s a contest between two strong attacking units.”
Wrap it up in Munich
After being rested against Darmstadt last weekend Bayern skipper Philipp Lahm is very likely to make the starting line-up and lead out the Reds at the Juventus Stadium, which the capacity crowd will turn into a cauldron. “We're in for a tough challenge. There are certainly easier opponents,” said the 33-year-old, who is poised for his 100th appearance in Europe's premier club competition.
Lahm feels there is little point taking too many risks on Tuesday: “We want to win every match. But we have to keep in mind that we have another 90 minutes in Munich.” Rummenigge spelt out FCB’s target for Tuesday’s game in more detail: “Ideally, I hope we avoid defeat and also score a goal, so we can wrap it up in the return in Munich.”