Bayern Munich has reached at least the semifinals in each of its last three Champions League appearances. With the 2014-15 final taking place in Berlin, the German powerhouse has added incentive to go for its second title in three years.
Bayern kicks off its campaign at home Wednesday against familiar rival Manchester City, as the sides meet for the third time in four seasons.
City ended the Bundesliga side’s competition record 10-game winning run when they met for their final group game last December, albeit with Bayern already through to the second round, and each has two wins and two losses from their previous meetings.
Bayern has made a solid start to the season despite a host of injuries and the loss of dependable midfielder Toni Kroos to Real Madrid.
Experienced Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso has come in the opposite direction and earned glowing reports after making an immediate impact.
Former Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski, one of Europe’s finest, has not quite yet settled in, though he has still managed one goal and set up three more in five appearances for his new side.
Bayern also brought in Moroccan defender Mehdi Benatia, though it is youngsters Sebastian Rode and the 17-year-old Gianluca Gaudino who have impressed early in the season.
Midfielders Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thiago Alcantara are all out with knee injuries, but French winger Franck Ribery has returned and scored in Bayern’s 2-0 Bundesliga win over Stuttgart on Saturday.
Manchester City’s claims to become a major force in Europe will only stand up once the club goes deep in the Champions League.
And manager Manuel Pellegrini believes this could be the season.
“I think this team has a greater personality to try to win everywhere,” Pellegrini said ahead of City’s fourth straight season in the competition.
City has only once progressed out of its group — and that was last season when it lost in the second round to Barcelona. It’s a poor record for a team that has been champion of England for two of the last three seasons and has star names throughout its squad.
City fielded a string of fringe players for last season’s match at Bayern — and won 3-2. Pellegrini is sure to pick his top players this time.
However, Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta is suspended following his red card in last season’s loss to Barcelona, and Pellegrini has a touchline ban.
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