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Bayern aim for improvement

Published: Tuesday 28 September 2004, 15.56CET
Felix Magath believes FC Bayern München are ready to show their true form as they welcome AFC Ajax.

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Published: Tuesday 28 September 2004, 15.56CET

Bayern aim for improvement

Felix Magath believes FC Bayern München are ready to show their true form as they welcome AFC Ajax.

By Andreas Alf in Munich

FC Bayern München hope to hit their stride at last when they welcome fellow four-time European champions AFC Ajax in UEFA Champions League Group C.

Indifferent form
Bayern have had a mixed start to the season by their standards, the lowlight being a 4-1 defeat by Bayer 04 Leverkusen last month. Although they beat SC Freiburg 3-1 on Saturday, Bayern coach Felix Magath admitted his side were still searching for the attractive, attacking game with which they are associated. "We have not found our own style of play," said Magath, who arrived in the summer from VfB Stuttgart.

Ajax admiration
Ironically, the coach views Tuesday's opponents as a possible inspiration to his midfield players, Michael Ballack, Zé Roberto and Sebastian Deisler. "The typical Ajax style is my ideal," he said. Yet it is on this free-flowing football that the home team will look to capitalise. "Ajax always try to attack and score goals. They don't just sit back and press on the counter - and this is to our advantage. We seem to have less trouble with teams that do not simply defend against us."

'No fear'
The 51-year-old, who replaced Ottmar Hitzfeld in June, expects the resulting space in midfield to work to his side's advantage. "The game against Ajax will actually be easier for us than the match against Freiburg," he said. "We do not have to fear anybody." However, Magath wants his more attack-minded individuals, like Ballack and Roy Makaay, to lead by example. "They have enough experience on the international stage to make a decisive impact on a game like this," the former German international added.

'Friendships do not count'
Makaay claimed the only goal from the penalty spot in Bayern's 1-0 win at Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC on Matchday 1, and has now scored seven of their last eight goals in the competition. The Dutchman is keen to continue that record against a team containing a number of his international colleagues. "I cannot promise anything, but I will do everything to score," he said. "Friendships do not count on the pitch."

Ajax injury doubts
Makaay could play alongside Claudio Pizarro, who has returned to full fitness, as has Deisler, who was sidelined at the weekend. Ajax coach Ronald Koeman, meanwhile, has several injury worries with midfielders Maxwell and Steven Pienaar both doubtful with muscle problems. "We will make a decision on whether they can play or not just before the match," he said. Despite excelling in the 1-0 defeat by Juventus FC a fortnight ago, striker Wesley Sonck is likely to drop to the bench.

Fond memories
Koeman has fond memories of the Olympiastadion after winning the 1988 UEFA European Championship there with the Netherlands. But while that side were a dominant force who entered the final against the USSR as firm favourites, he believes Ajax could struggle against the German giants. "We need some luck, especially against Makaay," said Koeman. "He is an important player for Bayern."

Inexperienced underdogs
The Amsterdam outfit are happy to perform the role of underdogs, though, with the coach looking to reduce the levels of expectation surrounding his inexperienced players. "We are a young talented team, but we're up against experience and cleverness. They have many qualities I would like to have in my side," Koeman continued. "Do not burden us with high hopes."

Last updated: 28/09/04 17.25CET