Bayern, Dortmund head into Champions League with unusual wins | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.04.2013
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Bayern, Dortmund head into Champions League with unusual wins

Both Bayern Munich and Dortmund have momentum before their mid-week Champions League quarterfinal ties. But can they keep the mojo against very different opponents? DW looks at what’s next for Germany’s two best teams.

It's hard to imagine a better confidence-builder than Bayern's 9-2 demolition of Hamburg on Saturday. The match saw a trio of reserves - Xherdan Shaqiri, Arjen Robben and Claudio Pizarro - take apart what is supposed to be one of the better teams in the Bundesliga. But no one in Säbener Strasse is under the illusion that things will be that easy when Italian table-toppers Juventus roll into town on Tuesday.

"There's no comparing Juve and Hamburg," Bayern's gruff sporting director Matthias Sammer growled to reporters after finding nothing else to growl about. "Juve are clever and experienced. We're going to need a good game plan. We'll have to show character and play strategic football. We need to defend well."

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes warned that Juventus will certainly be more aggressive than Hamburg - although the same could be said of an already roasted Easter lamb. Captain Philipp Lahm cautioned that his side needed to pay more attention to defending corners, while midfield general Bastian Schweinsteiger spoke of a difference in class.

"Juventus is a completely different caliber team,” Schweinsteiger said after the Hamburg drubbing. “Our 9-2 win doesn't do us any good against them."

Bookmakers have Bayern as the favorite for the home-and-away tie so is all the humility just talk? How good will Bayern need to be to get past the Old Lady from Turin?

Beware the Pirlo peril

Scott Parker of England and Andrea Pirlo of Italy challenge for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2012

Pirlo is Juve's heart and soul

Juventus are enjoying a fine domestic season that sees them sitting atop Serie A with a nine point lead. They, too, come into Tuesday's match on a positive note, having beaten Inter 2-1 in Milan on Saturday. They've also won their previous five Champions League matches in a row - although the biggest opponent they've faced thus far was Chelsea.

As Sammer correctly warned, Juventus have a very experienced squad, and they play a somewhat old-fashioned brand of football with two strikers. If Bayern's players think they will be given the acres of space they enjoyed against Hamburg, they are sorely mistaken.

This Old Lady features some very familiar faces. Avid watch collector Gianluigi Buffon has been synonymous with Italian goalkeeping for a decade and a half. Midfielder Arturo Vidal knows Bayern from his years at Bayer Leverkusen, and midfield rudder Andrea Pirlo orchestrated Italy's upset win that knocked Germany out of the European Championship last summer. Playing at home in the first leg, Bayern need to be mindful of away goals and they should pay particularly close attention to Pirlo – a stone-faced assassin with a history of coming up big when it counts.

Still there are lots of reasons to see Munich running out the winners in this tie. Not only are Heynckes' men on course to shatter almost every record in the Bundesliga this season, having almost clinched the title before Easter. Three regular starters - Franck Ribery, Thomas Müller and Mario Mandzukic – were rested against Hamburg.

Second-stringers Pizarro and Shaqiri should be bursting with confidence if called upon, and Heynckes has the unusual luxury of being able to bring on a player of Robben's abilities as an impact substitute. The Dutch winger looked like a man on a grim mission to make amends against Hamburg and he's surely itching to erase memories of last season, when his mistakes helped cost Bayern both the Bundesliga and Champions League titles.

The emphasis on Tuesday will be on keeping a clean sheet and not putting nine past Buffon, but if Bayern play with defensive discipline, they should be able to live up to their role as the favorites.

Dortmund face CL debutant

Dortmunds Marco Reus (L-R), Marcel Schmelzer and Kevin Großkreutz celebrate

Dortmund have already proved their worth against one Spanish foe

Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp's Saturday was nowhere near as relaxing as Heynckes', but his side's 2-1 win over Stuttgart was still satisfying. It was only the third time the Stuttgart native has beaten the club from his hometown. Even better, Dortmund's defense, which has been shaky this season, looked basically solid against a largely destructive opponent.

So the still-reigning Bundesliga champs will be the favorites when they head to Malaga on Wednesday. Their Spanish opponents - currently in the top six in La Liga but miles off the pace for the league title - are something of an enigma at this level. This is the first-ever Champions League outing for Los Boquerones, as they're known, and for the time being it will be their last. UEFA has banned Malaga from next year's competition for failing to pay their bills.

The team bounced between the top two Spanish divisions for years, but saw its fortunes rise in 2010 after being bought by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani of Qatar. Malaga finished fourth domestically last year to qualify for the Champions League, where they have gotten past opponents like AC Milan and Porto. Rising star Isco has been at the heartbeat of their midfield this season and was awarded his first cap for Spain's senior side earlier this year against Uruguay.

Having won a Champions League group that included Real Madrid, Dortmund won't be cowed by Malaga. Still, Klopp does have to cope with a number of injuries and was livid after the Stuttgart match at what he felt was his opponents' overly hard approach.

"Everyone wants to win, but there were so many scenes I don't like to see in football," Klopp complained. "At some point I was afraid even more would happen. It was simply too aggressive."

Left-back Marcel Schmelzer had to be substituted out early with a broken nose after taking a boot to the face. He may be able to play on Wednesday with a special mask. If not, he will join the likes of central defender Mats Hummels on the injury list.

Nonetheless, in both of the preceding two seasons, Dortmund have shown a rare ability to compensate for regular starters' absences. Winger Kevin Grosskreutz, deputized as a defender and looked pretty good against Stuttgart. Dortmund also have the advantage of playing the first leg away, which better suits their attacking style, and striker Robert Lewandowski has been on a tear in the Champions League, scoring five goals in the seven matches he's started.

The return legs of all the Champions League ties will be played next week.

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