Race for titles in top European football leagues set to be one of closest in years.
|Reds in his crosshairs: Van Gaal says his team can shoot down United’s European campaign [AFP]|
Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal says he is “jealous” of Manchester United’s quality and discipline – but that the German giants can still rise to the occasion in the European Champions League quarter-finals.
Van Gaal said his players could cause a shock when United travel to Munich for the first leg of a match that evokes memories of the English champions’ late win in the 1999 final.
Then, the Reds were the underdogs as Bayern held a 1-0 lead until injury-time goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer took the trophy to Old Trafford for the first time since 1968.
Bayern have since dwindled and talismanic winger Arjen Robben is a major doubt for Tuesday, when Lyon also host Bordeaux before Arsenal face Barcelona and Inter Milan play CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.
But Dutchman Van Gaal said his side could match United and the marauding Wayne Rooney – if only for this one meeting.
“We can surprise every team, I believe that,” he said.
Tuesday March 30
Bayern Munich v Man Utd
Wednesday March 31
Second legs on April 6 and 7
“Bayern are not yet a top level team like Manchester but we can achieve that level for a game.”
Van Gaal said Robben would not play unless he was fully fit, after picking up the injury in their 2-1 defeat to Stuttgart on Saturday.
“I think we have to be careful with a player who makes so many dribbles with such intensity in one game,” he said.
United forward Rooney has scored 33 goals so far including four in his last two Champions League matches.
“I think that Rooney is difficult to contain but maybe we can do that as a team. We have to do it as a team,” van Gaal said of the 24-year-old.
“Wayne Rooney is a super player and when he was younger I wondered if he had vision in his game.
“He has developed that and that makes a player a great player. He has this vision now.”
Van Gaal feels if Bayern match Manchester’s on-pitch discipline they are in with a fighting chance.
“I am jealous of this discipline and if we have that tomorrow we have taken a big step forward,” he said.
Henry to face Gunners
Barca star Thierry Henry has been confirmed in the squad to face his old club Arsenal.
Henry has not faced Arsenal, where he spent eight successful seasons, since he joined the Spanish giants in June 2007.
|Bordeaux coach Blanc lost a domestic cup final preparing for the European tie [AFP]|
The Frenchman had played against Barca in losing the 2006 final.
With the Arsenal game in mind, Henry was rested in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Real Mallorca along with Gerard Pique, Xavi and Lionel Messi, who has scored 11 goals in his last six games in all competitions.
Midfielder Andres Iniesta will miss the tie with a thigh injury.
Inter Milan face the rare prospect of using their first leg against CSKA Moscow to boost their flagging domestic confidence – rather than the other way round.
The Italian champions were imperious in eliminating Chelsea in the last 16 with a 1-0 win in London but their Serie A form has been poor.
It was all very different in the last three years when Inter were powering ahead in Italy while struggling to impose themselves in Europe.
“Playing every three days isn’t easy but our desire to win is stronger than the tiredness,” Inter’s leading scorer Diego Milito said ahead of the San Siro clash.
“Every match is hard and we mustn’t underestimate anyone. We just have to think about ourselves.”
French widen ambitions
Lyon are perfectly aware that their clash with Bordeaux has little to do with domestic rivalry and is all about making a real impact in Europe at last.
Former serial French champions Lyon are determined to seize the chance to advance to the last four of European club football’s premier event for the first time as they take on the new holders of the crown.
“We’re not playing against Bordeaux, we’re playing against ourselves,” Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris, who was instrumental in his side’s shock elimination of Real Madrid in the previous round, said.
“Playing a final while handling the preparations for the match against Lyon was never going to be easy. It is a good thing that we have to play again as early as Tuesday”
Laurent Blanc, Bordeaux coach
“We must score a goal or two and not concede any. We have all it takes to go through.”
To French football fans, two Ligue 1 sides facing each other in the last eight means one will feature in the semi-finals.
Lyon and Bordeaux, however, see it differently.
After winning seven Ligue 1 titles in succession before last year, Lyon want to show they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Bordeaux, under threat from several teams including Lyon in the league title race, are eager to prove they belong in Europe and can handle the pressure of the big matches.
That was far from obvious on Saturday when they lost 3-1 to Marseille in the French League Cup final, although it was clear their focus was already switched to the battle against Lyon.
“Playing a final while handling the preparations for the match against Lyon was never going to be easy,” Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc said after the defeat.
“It is a good thing that we have to play again as early as Tuesday.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to put our disappointment behind us and to bounce back straight away.”