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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Champions League: Bayern’s strong “we” message: Final “our top priority”

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Anyone who eliminates Messi and Mbappé without conceding can achieve anything in Europe. This is how Bayern feel after the giant duel. The defense is ready for the title – and the coach is doing the right thing.

Thomas Müller was standing in the Allianz Arena after midnight with an even broader Bavarian chest and, after the Munich “Au revoir”, formulated the ultimate goal of the season for the world stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé, who were again goalless.

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10 June, Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul: The original Bavarian wants to play there and climb the throne of Europe with his teammates. “It’s logical that we count ourselves among the aspirants and clearly aim for the final as our top priority,” said Müller.

With a view to the draw on Friday next week, when at the UEFA headquarters in Switzerland not only the quarter-final opponent but also the possible semi-final opponents will be drawn, the temporary captain decided for the player who was first in the stands on Wednesday evening and later in the dressing room celebrating Manuel Neuer. “I don’t know of any team that screams ‘Yeah’ when they meet FC Bayern. This game showed that again,” said Müller. Chelsea FC, Benfica Lisbon and AC Milan have also qualified for the quarter-finals so far.

Hainer: “I don’t see anyone who is stronger”

Müller’s announcement was the basic Bayern tenor after the 2-0 giant duel with Paris Saint-Germain. 180 minutes without conceding a goal against world champion Messi and World Cup top scorer Mbappé encouraged the Munich team, including their coach Julian Nagelsmann, who exploded when celebrating the goal, in the belief that the fourth premier class triumph after 2001, 2013 and 2020 is feasible. “If we pair our quality with passion, as we have defended, a lot is possible. Then we can achieve anything,” announced Nagelsmann. “I don’t see anyone who is stronger,” said club president Herbert Hainer.

Even superstar Mbappé, who still declared PSG favorites after the 1-0 defeat in the first leg, capitulated after the second defeat in front of Bayern’s remarkable defensive strength. This was paired with offensive determination with goals from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Serge Gnabry. Mbappé spoke plain language. “Notre maximum, c’est ça, c’est la vérité!” It was PSG’s maximum, that was the bitter truth. After the next PSG exit, he looked enviously at the FC Bayern squad, which “is made to win the Champions League”.

FC Bayern dominates PSG

The broad – and by the way also very expensive – Bayern ensemble demonstrated its quality class. “Overall, we showed a really mature performance,” said national player Leon Goretzka. With physicality and galling duel behavior, the Munich Messi and Mbappé robbed the desire to create on the pitch. “It’s very important to show that you’re not afraid of these individual talents,” emphasized Goretzka.

A big winner of the evening was Nagelsmann, who let off steam and pressure on the sidelines. He celebrated Choupo-Moting’s 1-0 win almost more wildly than his players on the pitch. “We played as ‘we’,” said the coach proudly. For sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, “the solid team performance was the key, of course.”

Nagelsmann had done everything right as a coach this time, unlike in the quarter-final knockout in 2022 against outsiders FC Villarreal. The recent formation of axes around veteran Müller proved to be wise. Likewise, Nagelsmann’s defense plan with a flexible back three and the courage to call up the inexperienced Josip Stanisic (22) as a replacement for the suspended Benjamin Pavard.

Coach praise for Stanisic and De Ligt

Stanisic “made a world-class game with the other two,” said Nagelsmann about the chain of defense with Dayot Upamecano and Matthijs de Ligt as leaders. De Ligt provided a pivotal moment when, with the score at 0-0, he corrected a blunder by goalkeeper Yann Sommer with a spectacular save on the goal line.

“Matthijs loves to defend or hates conceding goals,” said Nagelsmann. “He gets a truck full of Swiss chocolate from me,” Sommer said gratefully. “Never give up” is his motto, said de Ligt.

As unstable as Bayern have been this season in everyday life in the Bundesliga, in the Champions League they defend from start to finish as a collective. In seven of the eight games they have won, they have kept a clean sheet, including twice against PSG, twice against FC Barcelona with Robert Lewandowski and twice against Inter Milan. Added to this was the quality of the bank. Substitute João Cancelo prepared substitute Gnabry to make it 2-0.

“Everyone has committed to a goal,” reveals national player Goretzka. All also includes the trainer. “I’m part of the team. I’m happy to be in the same boat that was rowed faster today than the one from Paris,” Nagelsmann happily illustrated.

Source: Stern

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