Relief at avoiding the Spanish big guns seemed to be the overriding emotion for FC Bayern München skipper Philipp Lahm after today's UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw – but anyone in Bavaria needing a reminder of the threat facing them in Olympique de Marseille need only ask Franck Ribéry.
The France forward spent two seasons at the Stade Vélodrome, from 2005 to 2007, and knows all too well the cauldron that awaits Bayern in the first leg in Marseille on 28 March. "This is not easy," Ribéry said. "In Marseille there is a fantastic atmosphere.
The people live football and 60,000 fans will be against us."
Lahm described Bayern's pairing with OM as a "decent draw", adding: "I had said it would be nice to avoid Barcelona and Real, that's why we can be satisfied." Still, he was in no way suggesting that the 1993 winners should be taken lightly given their defeat this week of FC Internazionale Milano, and the home and away wins they posted against Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in the group stage.
"Marseille are dangerous. They have eliminated Inter and won twice against Dortmund," the full-back noted. "It is a small advantage that we play away from home first."
For Marseille, the second leg on 3 April takes them back to Munich, the city where they won the UEFA Champions League final in 1993, albeit at Bayern's old home, the Olympiastadion. Bayern's dream is to reach this season's decider at their new stadium and Marseille coach Didier Deschamps acknowledged that this "can be a motivation for our opponent" as he sized up the task assigned to Ligue 1 side in their first UEFA Champions League quarter-final since that 1992/93 campaign.
"It's tough, they are very strong," said Deschamps, captain of Marseille's 1993 team. "There were the two Spanish [clubs], Real and Barcelona, but I think that Bayern are the ones just behind.
They have great power and a very offensive quartet with Ribéry, [Arjen] Robben, [Thomas] Müller and [Mario] Gomez. There's an international goalkeeper, [Manuel] Neuer, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger in midfield and Lahm and [OM old boy Daniel] van Buyten in the back four. They're very solid."
Bayern beat another French outfit, Olympique Lyonnais, home and away in the semi-finals two years ago but Deschamps is wary of drawing too much confidence from his own charges' wins against Dortmund. "We must believe, anyway. It's true we beat Dortmund twice, even if it was not easy. They are five points ahead of Bayern [in the Bundesliga] but Dortmund were discovering the Champions League this year. Bayern are used to it. We will give our best as we did against Inter."
Whoever prevails will encounter the winners of the quarter-final between Real Madrid CF and APOEL FC in the last four, although Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge prefers not to look too far ahead. "It is better for us not to think of a possible semi-final against Real. That our aim is the semi-final is clear but we have to take the first step before the second. Our complete focus has to be on Marseille."
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