Despite attracting criticism for their unadventurous style, FC Bayern München appear convinced that a safety-first approach will guide them to UEFA Champions League glory.
The German champions recorded a 1-0 victory against Belgium's Club Brugge KV on Matchday 2, collecting the points despite failing to produce the spectacular attacking football promised by coach Felix Magath for their first Champions League game in their new Fussball Arena München.
Bayern fans were full of confidence 364 days earlier after they defeated Dutch giants AFC Ajax 4-0 with a magnificent performance brimming with flair and ambition. A year later, and there is talk in some circles of a step backwards with the Bavarians having secured their last four wins by the same scoreline - 1-0.
The critics might do better to stay away from the Arena on Saturday when VfL Wolfsburg visit, as the cautious game plan looks set to continue. Having seen the swashbuckling Bayern dismantled by Chelsea FC in the Champions League quarter-finals last season, the club's hierarchy believe a more pragmatic approach is necessary if the German team are to repeat their 2001 triumph in the competition and achieve domestic dominance.
'Only the results matter'
"It is a shame that we have to justify our wins," said Bayern's irritated general manager, Uli Hoeness, after the Brugge match. "
We are not a circus, we play for points. And we have indeed collected every possible point so far. Champions League football is about winning matches, not about getting prizes for playing beautifully. Only the results matter."
While Bayern's key attacking players Michael Ballack and Roy Makaay are struggling for form and fitness, the defensive axis of Lucio and Valérien Ismaël have become the side's new stars. The outstanding duo are a major reason why goalkeeper Oliver Kahn has not yet had to pick the ball out of the new stadium's nets.
Unlike Hoeness, Magath is not satisfied, and believes his side have more to offer than they showed on Tuesday. "Ballack, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger and our strikers were not 100 per cent fit," he said. "What we need is the chance to play in the same starting formation for a few weeks."
With that in mind, Magath looks likely to start all his big stars on Saturday against an upwardly-mobile Wolfsburg side that have lost just once in seven Bundesliga outings and boast a team with talented players such as Andrés D'Alessandro and Kevin Hofland.
'I could live with 1-0'
However, with ten goals conceded the visitors have one of the worst defensive records in the division, and could provide some useful target practice for Bayern's misfiring forwards. Magath maintains that the most important thing is to take all three points, saying: "Right now, everything is just about winning for us. If the match ends up as another 1-0, I could live with that."
Bayern will not mind accusations that they are the Bundesliga's answer to Juventus FC. The Italian champions who have turned the 1-0 win into an art form and defeated Bayern twice last season by that scoreline. On Matchday 3 the two teams meet, offering the German side a chance to turn the tables.
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