Mark van Bommel believes German clubs' lack of recent success in the UEFA Champions League will add to the pressure on FC Bayern München when they take on Manchester United FC in their quarter-final decider on Wednesday leading 2-1 from last week's first leg.
No Bundesliga side has reached the UEFA Champions League final since 2001/02, when Bayer 04 Leverkusen narrowly lost to Real Madrid CF at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Indeed, not since that same season has a German challenger even made it to the last four. While Van Bommel is careful to distance Bayern from the tag of favourites, such diplomacy has little leverage against the weight of not only the club's heritage, but a nation's expectations.
The 32-year-old said: "Sure, we won 2-1 in Germany, but for me Manchester United are still the favourites to win their home game. In fact, in my opinion, FC Barcelona and United are favourites to win the entire tournament. There is pressure on us because, since 2002, no German team has played in a Champions League final."
Bayern have history in their corner as they seek to defend their unbeaten record at Old Trafford. In three visits, Germany's most successful club have never tasted defeat, securing a win and two draws. Serious doubts over the fitness of United talisman Wayne Rooney, having sustained an ankle injury in Bavaria, and the likely return of Arjen Robben after injury, would also appear to edge the scales in Bayern's favour.
But Van Bommel insists the England striker's likely absence will not cause Bayern to drastically reassess their approach to the match. "Personally, I hope Rooney can play," said the Dutch international. "That would be great for everyone watching and great for the Champions League. But Manchester United are not only Wayne Rooney. Sure, he's scored a lot of goals this season, but they have a superb squad and whoever they bring in will pose a threat. We will give our best. It's not important to us whether Rooney plays or not.
"The most important thing is that we believe in ourselves and in playing our own game. We believe we have a big chance this season and we want to go as far as possible, but we know we face a very difficult challenge."
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