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RSC Anderlecht are counting on home form to carry them through the UEFA Champions League group stage but the visit of FC Bayern München will be a major test.
The Belgian side have made their best-ever start to a domestic season, having won all seven league games to date, and are certainly not short of confidence as they face a Bayern side who shrugged off their poor 2002/03 Champions League form with a 2-1 comeback win against Celtic FC on Matchday 1.
Anderlecht coach Hugo Broos saw his team lose 1-0 at French champions Olympique Lyonnais and is expecting a tough tie against the side he rates as the best in Group A. "They are certainly our strongest opponents in the group", Broos said of Bayern. "It will not be easy, but the first thing we have to do is try and win our home matches."
Close to top form
Unlike Anderlecht, Bayern do not lead the way at home, but Broos believes the German title-holders are still close to top form. "The reports I have had of their most recent matches were impressive, even if they cannot field their strongest team," he said. "
There is no such thing as a weak Bayern."
Makaay the threat
Broos, unsurprisingly, picked out Roy Makaay - whose two late goals gave Bayern victory against Celtic - as the man most likely to cause his team problems. "Makaay is certainly going to be one of their biggest threats. I will have to ask my defenders to stay alert for the full 90 or even 92 minutes."
Injuries mean that Anderlecht must face Bayern without defender Olivier Doll, who has hurt his knee, midfield player Christian Wilhelmsson, who has damaged knee ligaments, and forward Oleg Iachtchouk, who has a pulled muscle, while Bayern are able to welcome back midfield duo Owen Hargreaves and Zé Roberto.
Hargreaves missed Saturday's win at FC Hansa Rostock because of illness, but looks to have recovered enough to rejoin the squad. Meanwhile, Brazilian Zé Roberto still has two games of a domestic ban remaining after receiving a red card against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, but his availability for European competition gives coach Ottmar Hitzfeld a lift ahead of the Belgian trip.
That will be needed with Willy Sagnol, Tobias Rau, Sebastian Deisler, Jens Jeremies, Mehmet Scholl and Alexander Zickler all unavailable. Sagnol has undergone knee surgery, Jeremies has a problem with the same joint while Scholl and Deisler have muscle injuries.
Their absence makes it even more important for Makaay, Bayern's match-winner against Hansa, to keep up his prolific touch. But the €18.75m club-record signing from RC Deportivo La Coruña - who hit nine Champions League goals last season, including four in two wins against Bayern - is putting three points ahead of personal glory. "For me, it is more important that the team wins, even if I do not score," Makaay said.
Praise for Anderlecht
Hitzfeld, meanwhile, says that Makaay and his fellow attackers have a tough job in Brussels. "
Anderlecht are a technically good side and they showed as much in Lyon," he said. "They are very good defensively - in Glen De Boeck and Hannu Tihinen they have two very good players at centre-back which gives them stability. You do not get far with crosses against them."