Bayern still has a lot to prove
By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Bayern Munich boss Jurgen Klinsmann didn't want to be too overconfident, but he admitted Wednesday night that his side has "at least one and a-half feet in the quarterfinals" of the Champions League.
Bayern destroyed Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday in the teams' first leg match in Portugal, winning 5-0 to post the most lopsided away win in the history of the knockout stage.
The five-goal win also marked the most lopsided first leg in Champions League history. One of the only comparable games is Manchester United's 7-1 thrashing of Roma in the second leg quarterfinal in 2007 at Old Trafford in England.
"Without being complacent or arrogant," Bayern chairmen Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said, "I do believe we can look forward to a place in the last eight."
Bayern will host Sporting on March 10 at the Allianz Arena in Munich, but the only way the Lisbon club can advance is to beat Bayern by at least five goals.
It would take a miracle for Sporting to advance. In the other seven series in the round of 16, four are tied after the first leg and three are separated by just one goal.
Jurgen Klinsmann's squad scored on five of its eight shots against Sporting Lisbon.
Bayern's win at Estadio Jose Alvalade was equal parts precision and, of course, luck. Bayern scored on five of its eight shots on goal, an accuracy rate that could easily carry the four-time champions to another title.
"That was an impressive performance and nice to watch, but I am sure we will keep our feet on the ground and not overestimate this result," Klinsmann said.
Franck Ribery - who is rumored to be on the wish list of nearly every European power - and Luca Toni each scored twice, Miroslav Klose added his sixth to tie FC Porto's Lisandro Lopez for the scoring lead in the Champions League.
"I never imagined we would win 5-0 before the start of the match," Ribery told uefa.com, "but we wanted to put in a really good performance - we were serious, committed and scored the goals to set us up for the second leg."
Despite taking care of their series after the first leg, the German champions will be an underdog to win the Champions League. It's unlikely they'll even be favored in the quarterfinals, regardless of who they draw in the next round.
If anything, though, Bayern's performance proved it's a "match for any team in Europe," Bayern left back Philipp Lahm said.
After missing the Champions League last season, reaching the final eight could easily be considered a success for Bayern. But now that the team has "one and a-half feet" in the quarterfinals, it's hard not to raise the bar.
Plus, an exit in the next stage would erase German clubs from the mix - Bayern is the only one in the knockout stage - and extend the country's title drought to eight years. Bayern, which is tied with Ajax for the fourth most titles in history, was the last German club to win the Champions League in 2001.
Although eight years isn't that long, English, Spanish and Italian clubs have combined to win six of the last seven (two for each country). Portugal's Porto won the other title.
Germany has been trying to remain among the elite countries in Europe, but has become an afterthought on the continent's biggest club stage - the Champions League - since 2002 when Bayer Leverkusen lost in the final to Real Madrid.
Bayern has remained a regular competitor in the Champions League since winning earlier this decade - advancing to the knockout stage five times - but has not made it past the quarterfinals since 2001.
Arguably, the Munich club - which also won the Champions League three years in a row from 1974-76 - has their best team since Oliver Kahn made three saves in a penalty kick shootout to secure the 2001 title over Valencia.
The win over Sporting - also Bayern's fifth shutout in seven Champions League games - helped prove the club is close to regaining their status as one of the elite teams in Europe.
"We showed we have a first-rate team. You don't just show up and win 5-0 against opponents of this caliber," Rummenigge said. "All you can do is stand back and applaud the team."
"We've shown what we're capable of," Toni added.
For Bayern to regain its status among Europe's top teams - after finishing off Sporting - it has to prove it can advance at least one more step in this year's event, and that likely means knocking off an English, Spanish or Italian giant.