Bayern Munich wants 1st place in Group D
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Bayern Munich and Manchester City have already qualified for the knockout stage from Group D, leaving CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen to fight for third place and a slot in the Europa League.
Bayern, three points ahead of City, travels to CSKA, while City hosts Plzen, which is still without a point. Moscow has three points.
Here are 5 things to know ahead of Wednesday’s matches:
Unbeaten at home in 38 consecutive matches, Bayern is chasing another landmark.
The German club can set a Champions League record of 10 straight victories by beating CSKA Moscow after equaling Barcelona’s 2002-03 record of nine in a row. Bayern can also match a club record for successive wins on the road in Europe — it is one short of six, set by Bayern’s 1995-96 UEFA Cup-winning team.
“We want to win the group and we can’t afford to lose,” Bayern president Uli Hoeness said.
Bayern will be without striker Mario Mandzukic, who stayed home to nurse a calf injury.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola is reportedly livid that someone leaked his game plan to a newspaper ahead of the Bundesliga derby against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
It didn’t seem to matter, since Bayern won 3-0, but Bayern’s managers say whoever the mole is will have a “serious problem” when and if uncovered.
Club president Uli Hoeness was more relaxed about it.
“I am laughing about it. If that was our only problem, we can live with it,” Hoeness said. “I think the players are laughing their heads off when they read the headlines.”
Bayern captain Plilipp Lahm said whoever was leaking what happens in the locker room was breaking team rules, but that it won’t affect the team’s performance.
Paying the price for a string of costly blunders at the start of the season, England goalkeeper Joe Hart has been on the substitutes bench at Manchester City for the last five games as rival Costel Pantilimon is given a run in the first team.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini, though, said Hart will start against Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday, giving the keeper an opportunity to prove he is worthy of a permanent recall to the team.
Pellegrini still appears unsure which goalkeeper to go with, with Pantilimon being largely error-free since replacing Hart.
The problem for Hart is that he might not have much to do at Etihad Stadium. Plzen hasn’t picked up a point in four Group D matches and City has proved unstoppable at home this season — save for its defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in October.
Plzen coach Pavel Vrba said he was impressed by Manchester City’s formidable form in a 6-0 rout of Tottenham in the Premier League over the weekend.
“Manchester (City) plays well in all important matches. It’s an immensely powerful team,” Vrba said.
Although Plzen is out of contention for a slot in the knockout stage, Vrba said his team wants to follow on its improved performance against Bayern Munich at home.
“Even though we lost (1-0), our fans appreciated our decent performance,” Vrba said. “I’d like us to repeat such a performance on Wednesday. We know we have nothing to lose.”
To have a chance to advance to the Europa League, Plzen needs to match the result of CSKA against Bayern, but the Plzen players know anything other than a loss would be a huge surprise.
“City is one of the best teams in the world,” Plzen striker Stanislav Tecl said. “I can’t say we’re looking forward to the match but we’re not afraid.”
Plzen lost to City 3-0 at home.
UEFA has ruled that CSKA’s ultras sector must be empty during the game on Wednesday because of the fans’ racist behavior during the Champions League loss to Manchester City last month.
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky hopes the rest of the stands will give the team enough support.
CSKA may be without Ivorian striker Seydou Doumbia because of a thigh injury he picked up after scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory over Spartak Moscow in the Russian league last week. Midfielder Alan Dzagoyev is also doubtful for the game.
“Bayern is the best team in the world and our task will be to play quality football,” Slutsky said. “Bayern can create a scoring opportunity against any team so we will have to be good on the attack.”
It will not be easy to play quality football as snowfall and low temperatures are expected in Moscow on Wednesday.