Karl-Heinz Rummenigge opened the barrel again on Tuesday morning: All against us. “It’s something that has to be stopped in the Bundesliga somehow,” said the CEO of FC Bayern about the fouls in recent weeks, which had caused the club two more long-term injuries in addition to Corentin Tolisso’s cruciate ligament rupture. After all, he welcomed the clear penalty of four games ban for Karim Bellarabi for the foul on Rafinha last Saturday. And then Rummenigge remarked that, in his experience, the Champions League was not that unfair.
Which at least brought him to the topic at hand. On Tuesday morning, the Bavarians flew to Portugal to once again chase the Henkelpott, the Champions League trophy that means much more to the club than the championship trophy, through the whole of Europe. The Bundesliga, which you’ll be leading alone again after three matchdays, seems to be nothing more than a disruptive factor for squad planning at the moment.
But even if Rafinha’s experience from 60 Champions League games, Tolisso’s World Champion aura and Kingsley Coman’s sprint strength are lacking: In Group E, the Bavarians are of course the clear favourite when they start in Group E on Wednesday at Benfica Lisbon (9 p.m. Sky, live ticker SPIEGEL ONLINE).
On the one hand, it’s just that the injured misery is well suited to avoiding other topics. Behind the scenes there seems to be a lot of movement at the moment. As the “Bild am Sonntag” reported, BMW could soon replace the previous sponsor Audi, after all a shareholder of FC Bayern München AG. And the fact that on Thursday the Bavarians will not be flying back from Lisbon until the early evening, when they will have to compete at Schalke 04 again on Saturday, should cause internal displeasure. One possible reason is that the footballers have been sponsored by Qatar Airways since 1 July, no longer by Lufthansa. For flights within Europe, however, the Bavarians are still dependent on Lufthansa. But they no longer seem to enjoy any right of way.
Secondly, the serious phase of a big venture is now beginning in purely sporting terms. On the one hand, a veteran like Thomas Müller is about to make his 100th appearance in the premier class. But there are also players in the squad like Leon Goretzka, who has never played in the Champions League before. Also present were Paul Will, 19, and Woo-yeong Jeong, 18, from the second team. Coach Niko Kovac is keeping a close eye on the U23s, and it is likely that he will at least give the talents more chances than his predecessors did. Their chances could come faster than expected due to the situation in the military hospital.
Niko Kovac Honours
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Bundesliga Runner-up: 1996–97, 1998–99
- Bayern Munich
- Intercontinental Cup: 2001
- Bundesliga: 2002–03
- DFB-Pokal: 2002–03
- Red Bull Salzburg
- Austrian Bundesliga: 2006–07; Runner-Up: 2007–08
- Eintracht Frankfurt
- DFB-Pokal: 2017–18
- Bayern Munich
- DFL-Supercup: 2018
The same goes for Renato Sanches, who played Bayern in the quarter-finals with Benfica just two and a half years ago and has now been drawn for a home visit. After his return from the loan at Swansea City, they all attest to his good development, but the proof of his duty has yet to be furnished. Whether he can make his season debut against Benfica and play in front of friends and relatives seems questionable. Kovac merely said on Tuesday that the 21-year-old would “play a few times in the near future”.
CEO Rummenigge did not sound too confident. He said that Sanches might be deployed if events allowed it. In other words: with clear leadership when it is no longer so important. Except Rummenigge, by the way, all the Bavarians talked small about the injured players. It could also still happen that the starting eleven against Benfica looks exactly like a possible starting eleven from the 2017/18 season.
But then there is also Niko Kovac himself: As a coach, he is a Champions League debutant. “It’s an absolute joy. Tomorrow will certainly be a time of tension, but that has nothing to do explicitly with the Champions League,” said the 46-year-old. Play 7spins Casino as it is one of the best casino games with best casino bonuses.
“It’s still hard to say what it will look like internationally,” said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer on Tuesday evening after arriving in Portugal. He meant the changes made by the new coaching team. That may have sounded more negative than it was meant to. The players are confident that they will come a long way again this time.