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Injury-stricken Bayern set for Champions League action

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich have been hit with an injury bug that has shown no sign of letting up, so how will the Bundesliga leaders fare in the Champions League this week? The main thing is: no complaining.

In case you've had your head in the sand the last few weeks, Germany's top team is really struggling at the moment. Not with collecting points, or leading the table - but with injuries.

The current list of Bayern Munich players convalesing on the sidelines reads like a who's who of international football: David Alaba (knee), Bastian Schweinsteiger (ankle), Medhi Benatia (hamstring), Franck Ribery (ankle), Arjen Robben (hip), Javi Martinez (knee) and Tom Starke (ankle).

It's a reminder of Borussia Dortmund's season start, when crucial players from BVB's set up like Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gündogan were all missing at the same time. We all know how that has ended.

But, one of the things that makes Bayern's coach Pep Guardiola so good, is his ability to deal with stress.

When asked about who will play for Bayern on Wednesday, Guardiola replied with a smile, saying "those that are in the stadium tomorrow can play, those that have stayed in Munich, can't play."

Pep Guardiola

The brains trust: Guardiola has been regularly changing tactics recently, to deal with his team's injury woes

After all, it shouldn't be forgotten that ahead of Bayern's Wednesday night clash with Porto, their opponent also has important players missing too: Cristian Tello (thigh) and Ivan Marcano (suspended) are both out. While Colombian star striker Jackson Martinez is also highly doubtful, due to a groin injury.

Superstar sleepover

Guardiola of course knows that - no matter how many injured players he has - this is the stage of the season where Bayern Munich are expected to perform. In a way, losing now just isn't an option.

After their

3-0 win over Frankfurt

on Saturday, Bayern set off earlier than usual to Porto to begin with training and to settle into their temporary surroundings. The idea, according to Bayern's sporting director Matthias Sammer, was to give the small squad a chance to grow closer, despite the injury worries. It's a message that seems to have gone down well with the players.

"Due to the injuries the competition between us all has become less important," Bayern player Thomas Müller said on Tuesday to journalists at the traditional pre-game press conference. "The key is really to work as a unit."

The other key is just how much enthusiasm the team will bring to the encounter in Porto. Do they simply dominate possession and play out a draw in the hope that they can win the home leg in Munich with a stronger team next week? Or do they try to make a statement at an important phase in the competition?

For the wise-cracking Thomas Müller, the enthusiasm is certainly there it seems: "I've never played Porto before, so I'm looking forward to stepping out into the stadium and seeing what it is like."

Manuel Neuer's coming of age

Manuel Neuer

Neuer announced himself to the world on his last visit to Porto

In contrast to Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer has already played Champions League football in Porto. Back in 2008, as he was at Schalke, the then 21-year-old managed a night of miraculous saves. That performance was one of the reasons why Bayern Munich ended up buying the world's best keeper, in fact.

"The atmosphere is really fiery," said Neuer of Porto's home ground, the appropriately named Estadio do Dragao (Stadium of the Dragon).

"I have good memories of playing in Porto. Back then I was a very young goalkeeper. It was my first season of Champions League football and thankfully I had a great night, where everything just worked."

A strong performance on Wednesday by Neuer will play an important role too, especially with Bayern's reduced attacking options. At the moment his form is good: he has managed to keep a clean sheet in his last three Champions League games.

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