On Tuesday morning, Bayern were back at the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg for the second time in five days, but whereas the previous trip ended in a disappointing result away to SC Freiburg, Munich are plotting a much more positive outcome when they take on FC Basel in the Champions League first knockout round, first leg on Wednesday evening (Live in English from 8.45 pm CET on fcbayern.de Web Radio).
“There's one thing no one should do, which is to underestimate FC Bayern, even in the wake of Saturday's match," Jupp Heynckes declared in front of 80 reporters and 15 camera teams at Tuesday's obligatory pre-match press conference. “We've come to Basel feeling very optimistic," the head coach continued, recalling his side's serene progress through the group stage: “We need to repeat our performances from the successful group stage matches."
What is not wanted is a repeat of the frustrating display a few days earlier in Freiburg, just 75 km to the north. “As we saw, 95 or 96 percent isn't good enough. It has to be 100 percent," acknowledged Mario Gomez, “that has to be the final warning. As fast as we can, we need to ensure we’re totally focused and totally motivated for every match."
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge repeated the striker’s plea. “We have to adopt a different approach, that's totally clear," the chairman advised, “and I'm convinced that'll be the case tomorrow." On Monday, Rummenigge, fellow board director Karl Hopfner and director of sport Christian Nerlinger addressed the team face-to-face. “I welcomed it," said Heynckes, “I believe it's important we pool our the resources we have."
Tough task at St Jakob Park
That sound advice applies especially to the field of play, as Bayern know full well Wednesday's opponents will be just as motivated as Freiburg, and that the atmosphere at St Jakob Park will be intensely hostile. “It won't be easy. Basel aren't in the last sixteen by accident," Heynckes warned. The Swiss champions and league leaders are on the crest of a wave at present under former FCB youth coach Heiko Vogel.
Nor has it escaped anyone's attention that Basel saw off Manchester United during their stunning group campaign. The Swiss side claimed four points out of a possible six in their two matches against last season's Champions League finalists, condemning the Premier League high-flyers to the relative embarrassment of the Europa League. “That should be warning enough. We mustn't be arrogant, we have to concentrate hard," said Rummenigge, “but I'm certain we won't underestimate Basel. Our team won't make that mistake."
Confident home side
“We know we can't afford to take them lightly. It'll be anything but a stroll," said Philipp Lahm, recalling last season's Champions League group stage trip to St Jakob Park, where Bastian Schweinsteiger scored a minute from time to seal a last-gasp 2-1 victory for Munich. “We've not forgotten how difficult it was here in Basel," Lahm stated.
Neither have the Swiss. “Bayern should watch their backs. They should be ready for a fierce fight. We’ll work our socks off and get at them the whole time," declared former Munich man and current Basel dynamo Markus Steinhöfer. There is no mistaking the confidence in the home camp, as evidenced by a poll of fans published on the Basel homepage on Tuesday: 71 percent of the 3,000 respondents believe their team will make the quarter-finals.
Returning to the right track
“We'll go into both matches with optimism and confidence," said boss Vogel, although he played down Bayern's patchy form since the mid-season break. “We'll not be making the mistake of taking these so-called poor performances as a measure of Bayern's capabilities." Striker Marco Streller stuck to the official line: “We're up against opponents who are clearly able to distinguish between the Bundesliga and the Champions League, and who have the fact that the final is in Munich cemented in the back of their minds. It'll be very, very difficult for us, but miracles happen over and over again."
However, the Bavarians are utterly determined to puncture Basel’s optimism. “We're up for the fight," insisted Toni Kroos. Gomez drew inspiration from the pair of recent victories against Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern: “With the exception of the Freiburg game, we’ve been on the right track in recent weeks. As before, we know what we can do." The plan for Wednesday is for Bayern to show exactly what they are capable of.