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Captain Mark van Bommel has called on FC Bayern München to put their early-season troubles behind them when they meet FC Basel 1893 in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, telling his team-mates: "We have to start scoring goals."
Bayern have found the net just five times in their past six games and dropped to ninth in the Bundesliga on Saturday after losing 2-1 at home to surprise pacesetters FSV Mainz 05. The loss of wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry to injury has hit hard, but Van Bommel insists: "That is no excuse for us. We played in Turin against Juventus last season without Arjen and Franck. Perhaps this can be a turning point for us like that game in Turin [which Bayern won 4-1]. The lack of goals is a problem and something we all have to improve."
Bayern needed to beat Juve in that Group A game last season to advance, and their emphatic victory proved the catalyst for their run to the final. The news that coach Louis van Gaal has agreed a new one-year extension to his contract on the eve of the game in Basel certainly improved the mood in the Bayern camp as they look to build on their 2-0 win at home to AS Roma on Matchday 1. "It is good news," Van Bommel said. "He has done a great job so naturally we're pleased. We know how much he works and we have made excellent progress [under him]."
Basel come into the Group E contest on the back of a 4-1 league win against FC Zürich and the Swiss champions have certainly had no problems in front of goal this season. A disappointing 2-1 defeat at CFR Cluj in their opening group outing suggested that their problems perhaps lie at the other end of the pitch, and striker Alexander Frei, scorer of ten goals already this season, is expecting a difficult encounter regardless of Bayern's current form.
"Bayern are one of the best teams in the world alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid," he said. "They are very good individually but also have a strong unit. It will obviously be a very difficult game for us. They may not be in the best of form but they are a team full of internationals."
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