German champions Bayern Munich travel to Portugal to face FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League Quarter-finals first leg.
Both sides ensured their qualification to the quarter-finals with crushing 5-1 and 7-0 aggregate victories over FC Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively.
Captain and star striker Jackson Martinez will miss the home leg with a hamstring injury, so will Spanish trio Adrián López, Cristian Tello and Iván Marcano; the latter through suspension. Although Martinez and Tello have started training, the game comes too early for them.
Bayern Munich are hit with an injury storm, with Medhi Benatia being the latest casualty. Javi Martínez, David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Frank Ribéry all miss the trip to the Estádio do Dragão. Phillip Lahm return has given the Bavarians a timely boost.
Robert Lewandowski vs Maicon
With key attackers Robben and Ribery set to be absent, Bayern will be looking at Lewandowski for goalscoring inspiration. Despite being in and out of the team, the Polish striker has amassed 20 goals across all competitions. While he will try and target the relatively inexperienced Bruno Martins Indi, Maicon will be the one who will be handed the responsibility of stifling the former Borussia Dortmund man. More than just a battle of strengths.
Mario Götze vs Danilo
Yet another former Borussia Dortmund man, Götze has failed to nail down a starting berth in ep Guardiola’s setup. Heralded as ‘Guardiola’s Messi’ at Bayern, the World Cup winner has not been able to replicate his Dortmund form. The German will start on Bayern’s left hand side, and will come up against Danilo. The Brazilian, who is set to join Real Madrid in the summer, will be out to prove why Los Blanco spayed such a hefty sum for him.
Yacine Brahimi vs Rafinha
FC Porto’s summer acquisition Yacine Brahimi has become an instant superstar. The Algerian’s return of 5 goals and 3 assists has seen him become Porto’s most influential player. The former Granada attacker has scored two sublime free-kicks, against Basel and BATE Borisov in the group stages. The 25-year-old’s performances have seen him link with Europe’s elite, and Brahimi will fancy his chances against the attack minded Rafinha on Wednesday.
“Ambition and imagination are two words we have in mind. I’d like to remind everyone that we didn’t win a ticket to this competition – we had to earn it through the play-offs. We are here, proud and happy to be playing among the best teams in Europe at this stage of the Champions League. We want to be the best performers tomorrow while maintaining respect for our opponents. We are talking about one of the best Bayern sides in the club’s history. Bayern have injuries but will still have seven or eight world champions on the pitch. We don’t care about the players they don’t have. We have to focus on the ones that will play.”
“I am surprised with their level and we will need two good games to reach the semi-finals. They play an open game … they have physical midfielders but with great quality. That is also their biggest asset. Their individual quality.” Guardiola added there was no point talking about the Bayern injuries, saying he would simply try his best with the players at his disposal. “The last two weeks we talked about this a lot but we have this situation and we are here with these 14 players and we will try our best. That’s what it is and I won’t complain.”
Porto will play the European Cup/Champions League quarterfinal for the seventh time in their history.
Porto are unbeaten in nine consecutive European home games, winning six of the last seven matches played on their soil.
Bayern have lost only two of their last 15 games in European competitions.
FC Bayern München have conceded only two goals in the last six games played at this round of the competition, keeping four clean sheets in the process and averaging two goals per game in the process.
Bayern have fired the most shots (153, incl. blocked) and the joint-most shots on target (62) in this Champions League term among the eight teams still in the race.
Five of the last six goals scored by Porto have come from outside the box.
FC Bayern München have 10 different goalscorers in this Champions League season, more than any other team still in race.
Vincent Aboubakar replaces Jackson Martinez, while Bruno Martins Indi will replace the suspended Iván Marcano.
Bayern will revert to a 4-man defence, with Phillip Lahm starting in midfield.
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Image Courtesy: SkySports