Wingers to play a big role in Roma-Bayern CL match
ROME (AP) — Bayern Munich takes an 11-match unbeaten streak into a visit with an ambitious Roma squad, while Manchester City looks to improve its poor record at CSKA Moscow in Group E of the Champions League on Tuesday.
Bayern has not been beat since losing 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup on August 13 — a run that includes 1-0 wins in its opening two matches in Europe.
Bayern leads the group with six points, Roma is next with four, City has one and CSKA awaiting their first points.
The CSKA-City match, which begins more than two hours before the Roma-Bayern game, will be played in an empty stadium as punishment for racist and violent incidents by CSKA supporters.
It’s almost a year to the day since City’s Yaya Toure was abused with monkey chants from CSKA fans, the first in a succession of offenses that have earned CSKA repeated empty-stadium sanctions.
Speed, skill and experience should be on full display on the wings when Bayern visits Roma.
Bayern boasts the experienced pair of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, who helped the German club to the 2013 title, while Roma counters with Gervinho — who has been taking up sprinting challenges lately — and Juan Manuel Iturbe — who is often called “Iturbo.”
What’s more is that all four wingers should be well rested.
Ribery made a substitute appearance at the weekend on his return from a left knee injury, while Robben was taken off with half an hour remaining of a 6-0 rout of Werder Bremen to stay fresh. Gervinho was also rested when Roma cruised past Chievo Verona 3-0, while Iturbe is preparing to return from a bruised knee.
“I can’t wait,” said the 21-year-old Iturbe, who Roma acquired from Hellas Verona in the offseason for 22 million euros ($30 million).
BAYERN BULLISH AGAIN
A lack of domestic competition means Bayern can prepare well for the Champions League.
Traditional rivals Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke are all stuttering in the Bundesliga, which Bayern leads by four points with 21 goals scored and just two conceded in eight games. Borussia Moenchengladbach, currently second, is not expected to be challenging for the title at the end of the season.
Bayern warmed up for the Roma trip with a comfortable win over Bremen on Saturday, when Pep Guardiola had the luxury of leaving top striker Robert Lewandowski on the bench. Also, Xabi Alonso was taken off with half an hour remaining to stay fresh for Tuesday.
Alonso has been outstanding in midfield since his switch from Real Madrid and scored his first Bundesliga goal against Bremen, which effectively gave up after Bayern’s first goal.
“OK, another three points. Now it’s about focusing on the Champions League,” Guardiola said after the game.
After the Roma game, the focus will turn to a scheduled audience with Pope Francis on Wednesday.
ANGER AND POISON
Defender Mehdi Benatia makes his return to Roma following a controversial transfer to Bayern.
In August, Roma sold Morocco Benatia to Bayern for 26 million euros (nearly $35 million), having purchased him for half that price a year earlier from Udinese.
Benatia then said he was angry with Roma’s management, claiming that he wanted to stay and was told that he was sold merely to make a profit. Roma’s American president James Pallotta hit back by saying that Benatia lied to him over his intentions, prompting Pallotta to tell sporting director Walter Sabatini that the player was poisoning the changing room and should be sold.
While Benatia did play in both Champions League matches, he has been consigned to the bench of late.
With his fitness troubles behind him, Sergio Aguero is back in supreme scoring form and comparisons are once again being drawn with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Aguero became City’s record Premier League scorer on Saturday, with his four goals lifting him to 61 in just 95 appearances.
He has scored 10 goals in 10 games this season and is looking to at least continue that ratio at CSKA, where he scored twice in a 2-1 win in the Champions League last season.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said Aguero was the best out-and-out striker in the world — he doesn’t see Messi and Ronaldo fitting that description — while City manager Manuel Pellegrini has long said the Argentina star should be talked about the their company.
Aguero is “scoring four goals in pretty much every game,” CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky said, adding CSKA would accept a draw and that “our task is to resist (City) with as much quality as possible.”
Pellegrini must decide whether to recall Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Edin Dzeko, who did not start against Tottenham, and whether to stick with the 4-4-2 formation that has left City short in midfield in many European games.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf