Manchester United’s English striker Wayne Rooney (centre) takes part in a training session at the team’s Carrington training ground in Manchester, northwest England, ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A football match against Bayer Leverkusen, today. RIGHT: Bayern Munich’s defender Jerome Boateng (left) and team-mate Austrain midfielder David Alaba joke during a training session in Munich, southern Germany, yesterday. The team of FC Bayern Munich will play against CSKA Moscow in their first UEFA Champions League group D match in Munich, southern Germany, today.
London: Bayern Munich have been told to show some passion and enthusiasm when they begin the defence of their Champions League title against CSKA Moscow today.
The visitors, meanwhile, will be hoping they can help Russia make some impact on the competition after a dismal campaign last season when the country’s two sides, Spartak Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg, managed just three wins between them on the way to group stage elimination.
Bayern’s treble-winning season was always going to be hard to live up to and there has definitely been an anti-climatic feeling about the start to the new term, despite the arrival of new coach Pep Guardiola.
Even though Bayern have taken 13 points out of a possible 15 in the Bundesliga and won the Supercup, they have been overshadowed by a much more flamboyant Borussia Dortmund team who have won all their league matches and scored 15 goals to Bayern’s nine. Bayern have also suffered with injuries to Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger as well as new signings Mario Goetze and Thiago Alcantara.
There was definitely a run-of-the-mill feel to Bayern’s 2-0 win over Hanover 96 on Saturday, which angered sporting director Matthias Sammer.
“We played lethargically at times, we played football without emotion, we worked as if we were following rules,” Sammer told German media.
“We must get out of our comfort zone. It’s nothing to do with lack of effort, we’re lacking that last five percent,” he added.
Bayern have won 12 of their last 14 home games in Europe, suggesting that Tuesday’s Group D match, the first-ever meeting between the teams, could also be something of a formality.
However, Russian champions CSKA have also started the season well and are unbeaten after eight league games. The former Soviet army club, in the group stage for the seventh time, reached the quarter-finals in 2009/10 under coach Leonid Slutsky, who is still in charge.
CSKA, who spent a modest 10 million euros during the transfer window, suffered a blow at the start of the month when their Ivorian striker Seydou Doumbia was ruled out for around six weeks with a back injury.
But they have reinforced their attack by signing 19-year-old Brazilian Vitinho who made his professional debut for Botafogo this year and quickly turned into their most important player.
Vitinho, however, could find the Champions League a huge step up from the ponderous defences in the Brazilian championship.
Meanwhile, David Moyes will sample the Champions League group phase for the first time today when his Manchester United side host Bayer Leverkusen in their opening Group A fixture.
Moyes was selected to succeed Alex Ferguson as United manager at the end of last season despite having only overseen two matches in the competition during his 11-year tenure at Everton.
Those games, in 2005, saw the Merseyside club beaten 4-2 by Villarreal over two legs in the third qualifying round, but Moyes is relishing the prospect of a second bite at the apple.
“I am really excited to be involved in it,” he told United’s in-house television station, MUTV.
“I have been in the Champions League before but I have not made the group stage. I had quite a few episodes in the Europa League, which were good, but nothing at the level of the Champions League. “We will do our homework to make sure we are as prepared as we can be.”
United are the only genuine European heavyweights in the group, but with Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad making up the pool, there is not a weak team in Group A either. Moyes says that although things could have been better, they could also have been a lot worse.
“It was the first time I have been involved in a draw at that level,” said the Scot.
“When the names came out, there were some that I didn’t want and others I would have been happy with. Relatively, I am quite pleased.
“To draw Real Sociedad out of the last pot was a tough one. They have done well in Spain this year and had a great result against Lyon to get into the group stage.
“That put a little bit of a downer on it. In addition, Leverkusen are doing well in Germany and we also have the long trip to Donetsk.”
Leverkusen finished third in the Bundesliga last season and have won four of their first five games this term, with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich the only sides above them in the table. AGENCIES