CL: Duty-bound Bayern Munich eye quarter-final berth
Bayern Munich have a "duty" to reach the Champions League's quarter-finals when they host Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday with everything to play for, according to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Berlin: Bayern Munich have a "duty" to reach the Champions League's quarter-finals when they host Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday with everything to play for, according to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Donetsk held Bayern to a goalless draw in their last 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 says the 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," said the 28-year-old Neuer. "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 left-back 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 last November and echoed Neuer's sentiments. "We are deserved favourites 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 Hanover 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 Ukraine 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 an injury-time equaliser when Vladimir Priemov netted for Kharkiv.
"We dominated the play, but made too many own mistakes especially in midfield and in defence and paid the price for it," said Lucescu. "In Munich we must put in a fine show, otherwise we're doomed.- Conflict zone - 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 not an easy task," said the Romanian.
"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."
But the 69-year-old acknowledges 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 full-backs, 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 Munich match.