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Bayern boosted by winter break

Published: Tuesday 22 February 2005, 15.22CET
Coach Felix Magath believes FC Bayern München "will profit" from their fresher legs against Arsenal FC.

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Published: Tuesday 22 February 2005, 15.22CET

Bayern boosted by winter break

Coach Felix Magath believes FC Bayern München "will profit" from their fresher legs against Arsenal FC.

By Andreas Alf in Munich

When FC Bayern München take on Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round, victory could be a matter of determination as much as skill.

Magath bullish
Bayern coach Felix Magath is certainly full of confidence. Although key midfield player Michael Ballack remains doubtful, still feeling the effects of a muscle injury, Magath is convinced the Bundesliga leaders can defeat the English champions. He said: "Our visitors are one of Europe's top teams - I believe they would even be able to win the tournament, if they did not have to play us!"

Ballack doubt
Big words before a big match. But maybe they are justified after a convincing 5-0 victory against troubled BV Borussia Dortmund last weekend. The coach is not even worried by the possible absence of Ballack. "He is an important player for us. But we will get along without him." The German international could be replaced by Owen Hargreaves, an English international who has never played against Arsenal. "It would be something really special," Hargreaves admitted.

English tiredness
Hargreaves believes Bayern have one advantage. "I would definitely say we are in better shape because we were able to recover in the German winter break. Hopefully, we will profit from that," he said. Magath agrees: "In recent years, English sides are usually tired after the winter. That is what happens to Arsenal."

Henry danger
However, inspirational Bayern midfield player Mehmet Scholl warned: "We respect them. They are a really strong side full of top-class players. There cannot be anything more challenging than playing Arsenal. We must try not to allow them to get Thierry Henry into the game."

Cosmopolitan lineup
Again concurring with his player, Magath said: "We have to be aware of Arsenal's attack. Our task is to control them. Arsenal do not play the typical English style. They do not even have a lot of English players!" Indeed, last week the Gunners became the first Premiership team to select a 16-man squad without a single British player.

Cole doubt
With Sol Campbell injured, Ashley Cole is the one Englishman in line for Arsenal selection - but he is ill. Manager Arsène Wenger conceded as he arrived in snowy Munich: "We are not completely confident that he can play. A decision will be made just hours before the match. Additionally I am concerned about the climate."

Vieira upbeat
Meanwhile, captain Patrick Vieira thinks Magath's confidence may be misplaced. "The Champions League is very important for us," he said. "This year we really want to be successful in this competition. I am absolutely sure we will be."

No fear
Wenger added that they are not afraid of taking on sides as strong as Bayern, saying: "We are not the kind of team that hides. We are used to facing players with the quality of Roy Makaay. We will not hesitate to attack against Bayern."

Goalkeeping showdown
One aspect that has dominated the pre-match build-up is the meeting of the two goalkeepers who have competed for the German No1 spot in recent times - Bayern's Oliver Kahn and Arsenal's Jens Lehmann, expected to start ahead of Manuel Almunia. Both men in charge agree that this issue at least will not be resolved on Tuesday night.

Kahn praise
"Jens Lehmann played for many years in Germany," said Wenger. "He does not need to be judged on this single match." Less diplomatically, Magath stated: "Lehmann had just played a few matches in the last months. Where is Oliver Kahn's challenger? I cannot see him."

Last updated: 22/02/05 23.05CET