Champions League Preview: Manchester United – Bayern Munich

Posted Wednesday, April 07, 2010 by Goal.com

The Red Devils will have to put their FCB jinx behind them if they are to come from behind to progress to the final four...

Kick Off: Wednesday, April 7, 2010. 20:45 CET
Old Trafford, Manchester

Problems

Prior to the first leg of Manchester United’s Champions League quarter-final encounter against Bayern Munich, much of the talk revolved around the famous final of 1999, which the Red Devils claimed in dramatic circumstances. Sadly for Sir Alex’s Ferguson’s men, by the time it had turned 22:35 in Munich last week, the media were ruminating over a reverse showing.

Of course, Franck Ribery’s deflected free kick and Ivica Olic’s smart winner weren’t quite as late as the blows the English Premier League club gave to FCB over a decade ago, and neither were they quite as damaging. Bayern had no chance to bounce back in Barcelona; United have their opportunity for revenge on Wednesday.

A flat performance at the Allianz Arena from United was perhaps overshadowed a little by the ankle injury sustained by Wayne Rooney in the build-up to the decisive goal, but there can be few doubts about the repercussions that ‘Wazza’s’ injury may yet have on the Red Devils’ campaign. Out for around three weeks, the Old Trafford club missed their star’s cutting edge and sheer bullishness as they slumped 2-1 to Chelsea on Saturday in a vital league encounter.

Despite the weekend setback, club captain Gary Neville is relishing the prospect of Wednesday’s encounter and believes United have a good chance of overhauling their opponents. “Our ground is a difficult place to come to and we’ve got a good record at home this season,” he said, according to the club’s official website. “It’s a big game for us and we have to make sure we make things difficult for them.”

With a European pedigree only surpassed by Barcelona over the course of the last five years, there can be little doubt that the vastly experienced English side have every right to remain confident ahead of the midweek test.

With The Upper Hand

Like Manchester United, Bayern Munich had to tackle a vitally important league match at the weekend, but unlike the Red Devils, Louis van Gaal’s side dug deep to secure a 2-1 success against title rivals Schalke in trying circumstances. Reduced to 10 men, the Bavarians defended stoically; a fine dress rehearsal for the trial they are likely to be under on Wednesday evening.

Dutch coach Van Gaal was delighted with the outcome. “We allowed them very few chances,” he beamed after the game. “We’ve scored two very good goals, so I’m extremely pleased. We knew it would be difficult after we went a man down, but we also knew Schalke would have problems taking the initiative. We closed down the space well, and fortunately that was enough.”

FCB will likely be forced onto the back foot when they travel to Old Trafford, pushed back by a wave of red, though they will be confident they can repel such a charge. Already the Bundesliga outfit have proven successful away from home in the Champions League this term, with a defeat against Girondins de Bordeaux the only major blot on their otherwise impressive record, which includes a terrific group stage win over Juventus and a dramatic comeback against Fiorentina in the previous round. The Bavarians would lose to the Viola in the end, but they did enough to sneak through on away goals.

Boosting German confidence further is their fine record against their midweek opponents. United have been relatively regular foes for Die Roten in Europe, yet their record against the three-times European champions is remarkably strong. In eight previous meetings, the German giants have only been defeated once, and should they maintain that record over the course of the next week, Van Gaal will lead his side into the semi-finals.


FORM GUIDE

Manchester United

LOST 2-1 (h) Chelsea (Premier League, April 3)

LOST 2-1 (a) Bayern Munich (Champions League, March 30)

WON 4-0 (a) Bolton Wanderers (Premier League, March 27)

WON 2-1 (h) Liverpool (Premier League, March 21)

WON 3-0 (h) Fulham (Premier League, March 14)

Bayern

WON 2-1 (a) Schalke (Bundesliga, April 3)

WON 2-1 (h) Manchester United (Champions League, March 30)

LOST 2-1 (h) Stuttgart (Bundesliga, March 27)

WON 1-0 (a) Schalke (DFB Pokal, March 24)

LOST 2-1 (a) Eintracht Frankfurt (Bundesliga, March 20)

TEAM NEWS

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson has a number of long-term injury concerns to consider going into this encounter, including Michael Owen, Anderson and Wes Brown. Owen Hargreaves is slowly making his way back towards the first team but is ineligible for Europe.

Some reports have given Wayne Rooney a chance of making the bench, though that looks highly unlikely, while Jonny Evans and John O’Shea are both rated as doubtful.

Probable Starting XI: Van der Sar; Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Fletcher, Carrick; Valencia, Park, Nani; Berbatov

Bayern

Much of the talk surrounding FCB has been about Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who is set to travel with the squad to England after missing the first leg through injury. If he is fit to complete an hour, expect to see him start.

Bastian Schweinsteiger missed the first leg through suspension and will certainly be involved in some capacity at Old Trafford.

Probable Starting XI: Butt; Lahm, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Badstuber; Schweinsteiger, Van Bommel; Robben, Mueller, Ribery; Olic

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Manchester United

With no Wayne Rooney to call upon, Dimitar Berbatov must prove his worth on Wednesday evening. Signed from Tottenham Hotspur amid much fanfare for a massive transfer fee, there is a feeling that the Bulgarian has never truly lived up to his potential at Old Trafford. If he is to silence his critics, now is the time for the former Bayer Leverkusen forward to shine.

Bayern

FCB don’t need to score to progress; they simply need to keep a clean sheet. To that end, coach Louis van Gaal will look to Mark van Bommel to dominate the midfield as much as possible, shutting down the United attacks before they are even allowed to reach the back four. The 32-year-old has vast experience at the highest level, but this will prove one of his greatest tests.

PREDICTION

Perhaps lacking a little in firepower, and winded after their weekend loss to Chelsea, it will be tough for United to overturn the deficit they face. Bayern tend to thrive when their backs are against the wall, and they of course have this historical stranglehold over the Red Devils. It would be a magnificent achievement if the Bundesliga club could maintain their advantage, but United should sneak this one.

Manchester United 2-0 Bayern Munich

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