Champions League

Bayern apprehensive over Ukraine trip

2015-02-16 14:10
Pep Guardiola (AFP)

LVIV - Shakhtar Donetsk has escaped Ukraine's war zone, but it is well outside Bayern Munich's comfort zone.

After last month's unexpected 4-1 thrashing at Wolfsburg, a result that punctured the German champion's aura of invincibility, Bayern now meets Shakhtar, a refugee team from war-torn eastern Ukraine that has left its home city, for a place in the Champions League quarterfinals.

Even though Shakhtar's temporary home in Lviv, western Ukraine, is around 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from the conflict in the east, Bayern travels with apprehension.

"It's hard to grasp and (it is) a unique experience to be playing against a team that is based in a crisis area," forward Thomas Mueller said. "Somehow, it's a surreal situation. You know there is this terrible war out there, but you don't really realize it because you don't really know such a situation personally."

After the Wolfsburg defeat, Bayern has taken time to return to its ruthless best, but did so Saturday with an 8-0 rout of Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga. It was a timely boost ahead of the Champions League - "a good dress rehearsal" according to Mueller.

With its players forced to leave their homes, due to the conflict, Shakhtar's form this season has been mixed.

The Ukrainian team boasts the Champions League's top scorer in Luiz Adriano, who scored nine goals in the group stage, including eight against severely outclassed Group H outsider BATE Borisov.

Shakhtar, however, labored to a draw and defeat against out-of-sorts Athletic Bilbao and won only once in Lviv. Shakhtar also goes into the Bayern game without having played a competitive game in two months due to the Ukrainian league's winter break.

Here are some things to know about Tuesday's game:

Lviv is far from the warzone, but not untroubled by Ukraine's instability.

Over the last year, there have been sporadic violent incidents, including a reported attack on the mayor's house in December during which a rocket-propelled grenade was used.

Bayern decided not to travel until Monday afternoon and will head back home right after the match.

UEFA told the Associated Press earlier this month that it was "confident the match will be played in Lviv without any problem."

There have been some tensions between Shakhtar fans and supporters of local team Karpaty Lviv, but without any reports of violence at matches, although Karpaty fans have staged protests at some Shakhtar games.

The match may be taking place in Ukraine, but don't confuse it with a Shakhtar home game, captain Darijo Srna tells the Associated Press.

The 34,900-capacity Arena Lviv should be full, but many spectators are likely to be Lviv locals more excited at the prospect of watching Champions League football than supporting Shakhtar. In the group stage, the Ukrainian champion had a better record away than in Lviv.

"For us, it's a big problem, because we are not playing at home, we are playing away, a new arena," Srna said, comparing Lviv to the feverish reception Shakhtar used to receive in its home city of Donetsk.

"You don't have the power like you have at the Donbass Arena. The Donbass Arena is something special - it's our stadium, it's our fans, it's our city."

Bayern has never played Shakhtar before, but the Ukrainians know all about Bayern coach Pep Guardiola.

Shakhtar's best Champions League performance to date came in the 2010-11 season, when it reached the quarterfinals only to be dismantled 6-1 on aggregate by Guardiola's Barcelona.

Srna said Guardiola is "one of the best coaches in the world," adding "for me, that Barcelona team (of 2011) is better than today's Bayern."

Since that last encounter with Guardiola, Shakhtar has seen an exodus of big names.

"I think we have more experience than four years ago, but we don't have the same team," he said, noting that Willian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Fernandinho had all left. "But we have new players who will in the future show that their place is in Shakhtar."

Despite scoring eight in the demolition of Hamburger SV on Saturday, Bayern's stars are preaching caution after the shock of last month's loss to Wolfsburg.

"We shouldn't overrate the win and claim everything is perfect again," said Mueller. "We have to remain sober. There were questions in the three games before. I don't want us to be celebrated now. It's a narrow gap between being a failure or world class, but I hope we can take this form to Lviv."

Guardiola was more upbeat.

"We must quickly focus on the Champions League," coach Pep Guardiola said. "But I am pleased that our way of playing is back."

NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
Tuesday, 13 February 2018
Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur, Allianz Stadium 21:45
Basel v Manchester City, St. Jakob-Park 21:45
Wednesday, 14 February 2018
Porto v Liverpool, Estadio Do Dragao 21:45
Real Madrid v PSG, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:45
Tuesday, 20 February 2018
Bayern Munchen v Besiktas, Allianz-Arena 21:45
Chelsea v Barcelona, Stamford Bridge 21:45
Wednesday, 21 February 2018
Sevilla v Manchester United, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 21:45
Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:45
Tuesday, 06 March 2018
Liverpool v Porto, Anfield 21:45
PSG v Real Madrid, Parc des Princes 21:45
Wednesday, 07 March 2018
Manchester City v Basel, Etihad Stadium 21:45
Tottenham Hotspur v Juventus, Wembley Stadium 21:45
Logs
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

Which English Premier League club will progress furthest in this season's Champions League?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.