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Beware of Bayern Munich

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Prior to Tuesday's vital Champions League encounter at Juventus, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was confident.

"You don't have to be a prophet to know that it is going to be very tough," Rummenigge said of the Juventus match. "But I am convinced that we will throw everything into the melting pot to make possible what only a few weeks ago was absolutely impossible."

Following Bayern's 4-1 win over the Italian side, which clinched the second spot in Group A, Rummenigge was jubilant.

"Our best performance of the season, exceptional success and an early Christmas present for us and our fans," Rummenigge exclaimed.

Bayern has clinched the second spot in Group A.
Now, with the draw for the knockout round set to take place on Friday, the chairman is a bit reserved.

"We'll be given a massive task," was all that he said.

Rummenigge is correct in that assessment, because the list of Bayern's opponents for the last 16 includes European heavyweights Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid, while Fiorentina and Sevilla also loom as possibilities.

Ideally, Bayern will draw one of the latter two teams, but even if they are given a tough matchup, they have already overcome so much just to get to this point.

Bayern didn't even control its own destiny after four games in the group stage. They needed to beat Maccabi Haifa and hope that Bordeaux, which had already qualified for the knockout round, could beat Juventus.

Once that happened, Bayern still needed to rally from a goal down in Turin, and they did just that, scoring four unanswered goals to stun the Italians.

New manager Louis van Gaal didn't exactly endear himself to the Bayern faithful when he allowed central defender Lucio to leave for Inter Milan over the summer, and after starting the season with just one win in four games, it looked like just a matter of time before Van Gaal would be replaced.

However, 20-year-old Holger Badstuder stepped in to help fill the void left by Lucio's departure, and fellow youngster Thomas Muller showed an ability to find the back of the net along with summer-signing Mario Gomez.

Winger Arjen Robben has also had a positive impact on the team, when he is actually on the field, and veteran netminder Jorg Butt has provided a bit of stability in goal, something that 25-year-old Michael Rensing was unable to do.

And the club has accomplished all of this without much help from Franck Ribery, who has been limited to nine appearances in all competitions.

When fully healthy, Ribery and Robben can make the Bayern attack quite dangerous, giving the team plenty of speed and width on the wings. But asking both players to be fully fit at the same time is like expecting the economy to rebound next month.

The duo has started in the same match just three times all season, but with nearly one month off due to the lengthy winter break in Germany, both players might have the chance to be ready for the knockout round in February, making Bayern a very dangerous draw for anyone.



Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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