Bayern Munich are back to full strength as they return to Champions League action against Besiktas. Captain Mats Hummels says he and his teammates are looking forward to a tough game against the Turkish champions.
With their lead at the top of the Bundesliga increasing by the week, Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes rotated heavily ahead of Saturday's trip to VfL Wolfsburg, making eight changes to the team which had beaten Schalke 2-1 the week before.
"Making so many changes is always a risk," admitted the 72-year-old treble winner. "But it's important that everyone gets their chance and feels: I belong to the team and I will also be a German champion."
The decision almost backfired, if backfiring is even possible with an 18-point lead. Bayern fell behind and struggled to break down a well-organized Wolves defense until late strikes from Sandro Wagner and Robert Lewandowski sealed a 13th straight win.
"When you see the faces of our opponents, asking themselves again how they came so close to beating us, then maybe it is a bit unfair," said Thomas Müller, who had started on the bench. "But it feels great for us!"
"This incredible will to win might not make it exciting for the rest of the league but it's fun for us," he added. "The team is simply awesome."
Having finished runners-up in Group B, Bayern were at risk of a tough quarterfinal tie against a group winner but managed to avoid the likes of Barcelona, Roma and the four English clubs. On paper, Besiktas appears to be an eminently beatable opponent.
The reigning Turkish champions are currently fourth in the Turkish SuperLig, three points behind Galatasaray and Fenerbahce and five points behind leaders Basaksehir, who helped eliminate Hoffenheim in the Europa League.
Nevertheless, Besiktas topped Group G unbeaten, including home and away wins over newcomers RB Leipzig. Brazilian striker Talisca has four Champions League goals to his name already this season, as did Cenk Tosun, but the German-born Turkish international has since joined Premier League side Everton.
"[Besiktas] have some extremely talented players whose careers perhaps haven't always gone to plan," said Müller, looking ahead. "But the quality is there. We saw in the games against Leipzig that we mustn't underestimate them."
"We're expecting a tough, physical battle with lots of good, strong tackles from both sides," added captain Mats Hummels. "That doesn't mean it will be dirty or unfair, but good tackling is a key part of football for me."
Both teams have players who will have to be wary of picking up yellow cards which would see them miss the potentially decisive second leg in Istanbul. For Bayern, Joshua Kimmich, Corentin Tolisso and Sebastian Rudy are all one booking away from a ban, as are Talisca, Caner Erkin and former HSV midfielder Tolgay Arslan for Besiktas.
According to current UEFA rules, in place since the 2014/15 season, yellow cards accumulated since the group stage are written off after the quarterfinals so that players go into the semifinals with a clean slate – unless a player picks up his third yellow in the quarterfinal second leg.
No away fans
After crowd trouble at last season's Europa League quarterfinal against Olympique Lyonnais, Besiktas supporters are banned from attending their team's European away games. However, due to the large Turkish diaspora in Germany, Hummels is sure that many fans will find a way around the regulations.
"I'm sure there will be Besiktas fans in the stadium," he told press. "In fact, I've sorted out tickets for two of them myself! They won't be in one section as usual but I'm sure they'll still get behind their team, which is great. I'm a fan of sold-out but peaceful stadia!"