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Sports

United start as underdogs against all-conquering Bayern

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-01

For perhaps the first time in Champions League history, Manchester United start a home match as the underdogs as they take on Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in the first leg of their quarter-final on Tuesday night.

 
Bayern are the reigning European champions. They have been in overwhelming form this season under their new coach Pep Guardiola and have already clinched the German league title in record time. They could become the first team to complete a German league season unbeaten since the start of the Bundesliga era in 1963.
 
Manchester United, meanwhile, are enduring a miserable season under their new coach, David Moyes. They lie seventh in the English Premier League and are certain to finish with their lowest points total since the start of the Premier League era in 1992.
 
Including last year’s final against Borussia Dortmund in London, Bayern have won eight straight Champions League games away from home. That run includes four victories in England: the final at Wembley,  two at Arsenal and one at United’s neighbour City.  United, on the other hand, have lost at home in the competition this season to both Real Madrid and, more surprisingly, FC Cluj of Romania.
 
Bayern will be without central defenders Dante, who is suspended, and midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who is injured. United’s problems are far worse.
 
United  will be without Robin van Persie, who scored all three goals as United fought back from a two-goal deficit to eliminate Olympiakos in the last round but who suffered an injury in that match. They cannot use their expensive signing Juan Mata because he played for Chelsea in the competition in the autumn. One full back, Patrice Evra, is suspended, and two more, Rafael and Alex Buttner, are struggling to be fit. Central defenders Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans have all been injured but all three trained on Tuesday morning.
 
"We have defensive issues, undoubtedly," Moyes said.
 
United famously scored twice in added time to beat Bayern, 2-1, in the final of the 1999 Champions League after Bayern had dominated the first 90 minutes. Bayern has dominated their six matches since then, losing only one, 3-2 at Old Trafford in the quarterfinals in 2010. While United won that night, the result meant Bayern advanced on aggregate.
 
United’s recent record against Bayern is poor. So is their record against Guardiola. He coached Barcelona to comfortable victories over United in the 2009 and 2011 finals, although United did edge Barça in the 2008 semifinals.
 
Fighting complacency
 
Guardiola was fighting complacency as he faced the media in Manchester on Monday.
 
"We play against Manchester United, one of the most important clubs in the world, regardless of the current situation," he said. "Maybe they played no good during the season. I don't know why.
 
"United have good players. These two games could be the best two performances of their season. They can beat us."
 
Moyes echoed Guardiola as he insisted United could win.
 
"We are going into the game knowing that on our day we are as good a side as any," the United manager told the press. "We have to show it more often than we have done, but I have great belief in the players.
 
"I can tell by their training and their attitude that they are saying 'This is a big game', and they all want to play in the big games. Over the years that is what they have all wanted to do."
 
That attitude might give United one edge: desperation.
 
With their dismal league position,  United are in danger of missing Europe’s most prestigious club competition for the first time since 1995. If their players want to appear in Champions League next season, their best hope is to qualify as winners. That means finding a way to beat mighty Bayern.
 
(France 24 with AP, AFP, Reuters)

Date created : 2014-04-01

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