Munich: Very few had imagined that Manchester United would still be in the tie when they boarded the flight to Munich for the Champions League quarter final second leg against Bayern Munich, on Wednesday. But manager David Moyes and his men would be eyeing to produce what can be inarguably called the biggest shock of the tournament.
United are still regarded as the underdogs to progress through to the last four at the expense of the holders, but there are some reasons for positivity.
Wayne Rooney will play on Wednesday even if it means having a pain-killing injection for a toe injury prior to the game, Moyes said on Tuesday.
“He will definitely play," Moyes told reporters. “We will do all we can to get him on the pitch. He is happy to take an injection. It is the hardest game for us so far. Both teams have top players.”
Moyes will also have to make a decision between the experienced Patrice Evra and Alexander Buttner at left back, with veterans Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic reuniting once again at the heart of the defence. Marouane Fellaini could miss out, though, having sat out training, which could result in Tom Cleverley coming into the side.
Former Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa has been in impressive form of late, but after he started the opening leg on the bench, he could miss out on a place in the starting line-up once again.
In terms of head-to-head clashes, United have made four previous trips to Munich, and could not return victorious on any of those occasions.
Bayern Munich’s longest winless run for three years and poor recent home record against English opposition have suddenly made Manchester United’s task on Wednesday look a lot less daunting than it was when the draw was made.
Bayern will also be without three key midfielders, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter final second leg, evenly poised after last week’s 1-1 draw.
The Bavarians have lost their air of invincibility since clinching the Bundesliga title against Hertha Berlin on March 25 and have not won since with two draws and a defeat in all competitions in their last three games.
It is the first time since March 2011 that Bayern have endured a three-match winless run and, even though they have already sewn up the Bundesliga, it is a disconcerting statistic for a side which has become used to chalking up wins with monotonous regularity.
Another worry for Bayern is their failure to win any of their last four matches against English opposition at the Allianz Arena.
The run started with the 2012 Champions League final against Chelsea, who won on penalties after a 1-1 draw. That was followed by defeats to Arsenal and Manchester City and, most recently, a draw against Arsenal in the previous Champions League round last month.
That game showed that Bayern could get the jitters when put under pressure, as Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger commented at the time.
“Bayern are a good side, they were more vulnerable this season than last year,” he said after a 1-3 aggregate defeat. “I thought Bayern were very vulnerable defensively, we didn’t take advantage of that. I felt there were situations which we could have made more of.”
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s tendency for South American-style forays out of his penalty area creates an additional risk for last season’s treble winners, who are aiming for their third successive Champions League final.
Bayern have Schweinsteiger suspended following his first leg sending-off along with Javier Martinez while a third key midfielder, Thiago Alcantara, is out injured. Those absentees could be a worry even for a team with as much strength in depth as Bayern.
“We’ve got to play to win, we’ll end up losing if we play for a goalless draw,” said Bayern’s Brazilian defender Dante. “We’ve got to be aggressive going forward from the start and try to score.”