Yesterday’s Champions League draw is widely viewed as extremely favorable to virtually all four German teams in the competition. After a disastrous year in international club soccer last season for every team except Bayern Munich, that is fantastic news for the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich was no exception, its opponents being SL Benfica, Ajax Amsterdam, and AEK Athens. Ajax’s chairman Edwin van der Sar put it bluntly: “Bayern is the group favorite; we’re fighting for second place.” Reactions around the club itself were appropriately reserved (AZ).
Bayern’s leading officials all were confident, but emphasized that none of their three opponents should be underestimated. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stated,
It is an attractive group that we are looking forward to. The goal of course is the knockout round, but we cannot underestimate any of these three opponents. All three showed last season in their leagues how strong they are. We have to go to work very focused if we want to reach the next round.
Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic’s verdict was similar:
On the Champions League level, there are no easy opponents. But after the draw I’m confident that we’ll be able to finish the group stage in first place.
Head coach Niko Kovac promised the fans three nights of outstanding soccer:
An interesting group with great traditional clubs. Our fans can look forward to three magnificent Champions League evenings at the Allianz Arena. In competitive terms, I’m very satisfied. We’re the favorites, but we have to perform at 100% in all the games to move on to the next round.
Among the players, captain and vice-captain Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller gave their individual verdicts. Neuer stressed the fact that Bayern will indeed have to perform well away in three different stadiums, each presenting its own challenge.
We’ll meet three illustrious names of European soccer. We have to do something good against Benfica away. In Greece, there’s always a great atmosphere in the stadium, and we also need a top performance against Ajax to meet a second-place team in the knockout round as the group winner.
Müller almost sounded like he just booked a sightseeing tour:
The fun begins on September 19th, when Bayern travel to Lisbon to face Benfica. Auf geht’s!
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern): ”Lasst uns starten! Interessante Gruppe mit Gegnern in tollen Städten.”