Back in October, a certain BATE Borisov struck to deadly effect on the break against Bayern, winning 3-1 in Minsk and handing FCB a first defeat of term. “Obviously, we've been warned," noted Bastian Schweinsteiger, “when you first hear the name Borisov, you think of the kind of team we'll beat 5-0. But that's not the case!" Nevertheless, when the men from Munich step out for the return fixture on Wednesday evening (Live in English from 8.30 pm CET on fcbayern.de free Web Radio), the Bundesliga leaders will be looking to round off their Champions League group stage programme with a home win.
That would guarantee FCB first place in the final group standings. “It has to be our target. We want to play the first leg in the last sixteen away from home, and also avoid one or two of the big names like Barcelona and Manchester United, at least at this point in time," remarked Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Should FCB fail to win at the Allianz Arena, the group outcome would be dependent on the result between Lille and Valencia in the parallel fixture, but whatever happens, Bayern are already guaranteed a spot in the first knockout round.
For that reason, Jupp Heynckes may opt to rest one or two players in the wake of the hard-fought 1-1 draw with Dortmund four days ago, although the boss said he was “making no allowances" for potential suspensions. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Dante are all one yellow card away from missing the Round of 16 first leg. “But we have to get properly stuck in. This is no friendly," Heynckes explained.
Mario Gomez could make a first start of the Champions League campaign, as Heynckes feels an outing on home turf “and the support of the crowd" could help the Germany striker as he continues his return from injury. The coach will choose between Gomez and the Bundesliga’s leading scorer Mario Mandzukic after the final pre-match training session. Claudio Pizarro is doubtful with a cold.
Daniel set for comeback
Daniel van Buyten returns to the squad after finally shaking off a stubborn illness, “and he's been training well," the coach reported. The definite absentees are Arjen Robben (sprain), Holger Badstuber (cruciate), Luiz Gustavo (groin) and Emre Can (ligaments). However, captain Philipp Lahm is looking for a strong team display: “We have to make amends for the first game, and we want to put things straight."
In the clash in Minsk, Borisov got through an exceptional amount of work, covering a total of 128 km as a team, “an outstanding total," as Heynckes put it. “At the end of the day, the defeat wasn't undeserved," the coach acknowledged. The Belarus champions are serious about upsetting the Bundesliga leaders again, as they travelled to Germany as early as last Wednesday and set up a pre-match training base in the Bavarian spa town of Bad Gögging.
Borisov’s defensive strategy
“Our plan is to defend and hit them on the break," revealed midfield dynamo Alexsandr Hleb, although the former Stuttgart, Arsenal and Barcelona star seemed pessimistic about his side's chances at the Allianz Arena: “It will be very, very tough. We'll just have to fight." In fact, Borisov have little to play for on the night, as they cannot finish in the top two but are already sure of third spot and a place in the Europa League after Christmas.
As for Bayern, finishing top of the section might not even bring easier opposition in the last sixteen, with the likes of Real Madrid and AC Milan already confirmed as group runners-up. But, said Lahm, it hardly makes a difference: “Once you get to the last sixteen there are no easy ties, although obviously we'd rather avoid a really big name."