No team has won back-to-back European crowns since Milan AC followed their European Champion Clubs' Cup success in 1989 with another a year later, but that is what FC Bayern München are attempting to do in 2002. Blocking their path, as they were in the semi-finals in 2000 and 2001, are Real Madrid CF and on each occasion the winner of that tie has gone on to be crowned champions of Europe, something Bayern vice-chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes will happen again this May.
The 1. Bundesliga champions had the best defensive record in the second group stage, conceding a miserly two goals in six games. In the 12 games played in total in Europe this season, Oliver Kahn has picked the ball out of his net on just seven occasions, again a statistic bettered by no other team. Despite selling Swedish international centre-back Patrik Andersson to FC Barcelona in the summer, Bayern have kept hold of prize defensive assets Bixente Lizarazu and Ghanaian Footballer of the Year Samuel Kuffour and behind them is still the imposing figure of Kahn, widely recognised as one of the best stoppers in Europe. The form of young English international midfield player Owen Hargreaves has also been a plus for the club and his versatility in switching between a wing-back role and a central position has enabled Hitzfeld to play a more balanced side. And then there is Hitzfeld himself, widely recognised across Europe as one of club football's wisest and tactically most astute coaches, last year joining Ernst Happel as one of only two men to have coached different teams to success in the European Champion Clubs' Cup following his triumph with BV Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
If Bayern do not concede goals, then in the second group stage they have also found it hard to score them, notching just five in total, the second fewest of the quarter-finalists, a worrying figure considering that in the first group stage the club were top scorers with 14. Giovane Elber appears to have lost the form that he displayed last year when notching six goals (he has not scored since Matchday Four on 17 October) and although his replacements in attack, Claudio Pizarro and Roque Santa Cruz, have not let the side down, they lack the Brazilian's killer instinct in front of goal. Bayern's side are not getting any younger and having won the competition last year to end a 25-year wait for the trophy and followed that up by claiming the European/South American Cup last November, many doubt whether the team have the desire to go and win it for a second successive year. Stefan Effenberg has already announced that he will be leaving Bavaria come the end of the season, while injury doubts persist over key midfield players and German internationals Jens Jeremies and Mehmet Scholl. Despite the impression that the holders have yet to get into their stride in this season's competition, they are nonetheless still undefeated in the 12 games that they have played and no other team in the Champions League can claim that feat.
First group stage:
Bayern strolled through without breaking sweat, winning four and drawing two of their six ties, with only AC Sparta Praha and Feyenoord avoiding defeat against the Germans. The highlight of the pre-winter programme came with Elber's stunning long-range strike in Moscow that helped Bayern to an impressive 3-1 win over FC Spartak Moscow while in the Olympiastadion the Russian champions were hit for five. Two wins from their final two games meant that Hitzfeld's side finished with 14 points, the second highest points total in the first group phase behind Barcelona with 15.
Second group stage:
Drawn alongside old foes Manchester United FC, it was the two meetings with the 1999 champions that shaped the group outcome, with the two sides enjoying a 2-2 draw in Munich, followed by a goalless affair in Manchester. That meant that Bayern finished second to United, hence the fact they drew Group C winners Madrid in the quarter-finals.
UEFA Champions League statistics:
Played: 12 Won: 7 Drawn: 5 Lost 0 Goals scored: 19 Goals against: 7
Top goalscorer: Elber (6)
Last five results:
30 March 1. Bunesliga Hamburger SV (a) 0-0
23 March 1. Bundesliga FC Köln (h) 3-0
19 March UEFA Champions League FC Nantes Atlantique (h) 2-1
16 March 1. Bundesliga 1. FC Kaiserlautern (a) 0-0
13 March UEFA Champions League Manchester United FC (a) 0-0
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