Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Duty-bound Bayern Munich eyeing quarter-finals

AFP, BERLIN

Bayern Munich have a “duty” to reach the UEFA Champions League’s quarter-finals when they host Shakhtar Donetsk today with everything to play for, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said.

Donetsk held Bayern to a goalless draw in their round-of-16 first leg in Ukraine last month and the visitors will be chasing an early goal to put Pep Guardiola’s Bavarian giants under pressure, but Neuer said the 2012-2013 Champions League winners have a duty to reach the last eight as they bid to win a sixth European title.

“The game simply has to be won, nothing else comes into question for us,” 28-year-old Neuer said. “We like a situation like this. It’s our duty to progress. To bow out would be fatal, but we are thinking positively.”

The hosts will be without suspended defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso, who was sent off in the first leg after a second yellow card.

With Alonso suspended, Austria leftback David Alaba is set to move into Bayern’s defensive midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, with Brazil’s Rafina and Juan Bernat used as wing backs.

Bayern’s injured captain Philipp Lahm returned to team training on Monday after fracturing his ankle in November last year and he echoed Neuer’s sentiments.

“We are deserved favorites when we play against many opponents and our own performance dictates whether or not we can be counted among the top teams,” Lahm told German magazine Kicker.

Pep Guardiola’s side are on course to win a third straight Bundesliga title after Saturday’s 3-1 win at Hannover 96 left them 11 points clear in the league.

Shakhtar travel to Munich on the back of a 2-2 draw against Metalist Kharkiv in the Ukrainian Premier League on Saturday and their coach Mircea Lucescu said a similar performance would see them “doomed” at the Allianz Arena.

Donetsk captain Dario Srna and forward Luiz Adriano were on target, but Shakhtar conceded a stoppage-time equalizer when Vladimir Priemov netted for Kharkiv.

“We dominated the play, but made too many mistakes, especially in midfield and in defense, and paid the price for it,” Lucescu said. “In Munich we must put in a fine show, otherwise we’re doomed.”

Lucescu has a difficult task keeping his players’ spirits up as they have been forced to relocate to play in Kiev, with Donetsk affected by the conflict between government forces and pro-Russia rebels.

“We’re doing our best to keep our players’ spirits up during this period of time, but it is not an easy task,” the Romanian said. “It is very difficult to play a championship in these conditions. I would rather focus on what happens on the pitch — training sessions, recoveries, away matches, style of play. That way, I try to help our players get away from their worries and those of their families, who are still living in conflict zones.”

However, the 69-year-old acknowledged that his side face an uphill task.

“I’m perfectly aware we are facing an extremely difficult second leg in Munich, Bayern cannot afford to leave the competition so early,” he said. “The final will be played in Berlin, so they will do their best to be there.”

Three of his fullbacks — Sergei Kryvtsov, Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Ivan Ordets — missed the Metalist game with minor injuries, while Brazilian Alex Teixeira dropped out with food poisoning and is also doubtful for the match in Munich.

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