|Attempts on target||14||12|
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Though a club of FC Bayern München's stature always strive to be in the UEFA Champions League group stage, the necessity to do so is even greater this year.
The German giants are setting out on a journey towards the May 2012 final at their own Fußball Arena München, beginning with the home first leg of their league route play-off against FC Zürich on Wednesday. "Reaching the final would be a dream come true," said Bayern forward Thomas Müller. For general manager Christian Nerlinger, Bayern must be considered favourites against the Swiss visitors. "If we do not go through against them, we do not deserve to play in the Champions League," he said.
Jupp Heynckes' side are hardly entering the start of this European campaign in perfect spirits, however. Two games into the season, Bayern are 11th in the Bundesliga following a 1-0 defeat by VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach and a late 1-0 win at VfL Wolfsburg. While solid at the back, Bayern have so far appeared rigid going forward. Heynckes suggested that having strengthened the defence with acquisitions such as Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng, he "maybe neglected the attack a bit".
Last term's 28-goal leading scorer in the top flight, Mario Gomez, is yet to get off the mark. "We have to find a solution," said the Germany striker. The return from injury of Arjen Robben should provide added impetus, yet captain Philipp Lahm feels the problem lies elsewhere. "We have to switch faster from defence to attack and pass the ball forward more quickly," he said.
Meanwhile, forward Ivica Olić, a chief protagonist of Bayern's run to the 2010 final, does not want to think the unthinkable. "The Champions League is an absolute highlight for me," he said. "As a kid I looked forward to the TV coverage the entire week. The competition is simply the best there is. We have to take part."
Zürich, though, are not about to move over without a whimper. After beginning Switzerland's Super League season with three straight defeats, they seem to have found form just in time, having beaten city rivals Grasshopper-Club 6-0 two weeks ago and titleholders FC Basel 1893 2-1 this weekend.
"We have to be realistic," said midfielder Dušan Djurić. "But of course we have a chance, that's how football is." Coach Urs Fischer, a known admirer of Bayern, added: "There is one thing I can promise – we will try to make life difficult for Bayern for the entire 90 minutes. We want to win, this is always our intention."
Fischer's task, though, will be made all the harder by injuries. Midfielder Stjepan Kukuruzović tore cruciate ligaments in his knee at Basel, while forward Alexandre Alphonse is out after sustaining a calf problem in the same game. Playmaker Xavier Margairaz (ankle), midfielder Chaker Zouaghi (knee) and goalkeeper Yanick Brecher (stomach) are also unavailable.
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