Watch out Europe, Bayern are back

December 9th, 2009 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern Munich Hamburg, Dec 7 (DPA) Bayern Munich returned to Germany Wednesday in euphoric mood after saving their best performance of the season for when it mattered most.
Their 4-1 whipping of Juventus in Turin Tuesday evening has propelled Bayern into the last 16 of the Champions League and could be the turning point in a season of stops and starts.

Just over a month ago when the Germans lost 0-2 at home to Girondins Bordeaux, the Champions League was virtually written off by the Bundesliga’s record title-holders.

But Juventus then also lost to Girondins and failed abjectly to get the point they needed despite taking the lead through David Trezeguet against a Bayern side fighting for survival.

That Bayern were able largely to dominate the game took most observers by surprised - and even left the Bayern management slightly nonplussed.

“All the players are thrilled, and so is the board. We’ve played exceptionally well away to Juventus, a leading Italian team,” Bayern’s Dutch coach Louis van Gaal said.

“The first half was superb. I said nothing at half-time, and that doesn’t happen very often. I just said it was great, and we’ll win if we carry on the same way. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Van Gaal has been under intense pressure after an indifferent Bundesliga season, and his exit was on the cards in the winter break unless performances improved.

Now he is enjoying a run of consistency, with the team up to fourth in the league, just four points off leaders Bayer Leverkusen, and the relief is palpable after Tuesday night’s triumph.

Bayern may not finish top of the Bundesliga table going into the winter break, as newly-installed president Uli Hoeness predicted recently, but the team will be confident of winning the remaining two games - away to Bochum Saturday and at home to bottom club Hertha Berlin the following week.

“We’ll be even more confident now,” van Gaal said, while warning against lowly Bochum - “a typical German team, and it’s always difficult winning there.”

After going all season with different line-ups in every game, van Gaal has been able to field an unchanged team for the last four matches.

Ivica Olic, a free transfer from SV Hamburg, and Mario Gomez, who moved from VfB Stuttgart pre-season for a Bundesliga record 30 million euros (44 million dollars), both scored against Juve and are forging a fruitful partnership at the expense of Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who finds himself on the bench following injury.

Meanwhile the coach has winger Arjen Robben, who came on as a late substitute, coming back from injury, and midfielder Franck Ribery also close to a return to add to the Bayern armoury.

It looks ominous for the rest of the Bundesliga, and Bayern’s Champions League rivals may now also have to be wary if van Gaal’s team can use the Juventus triumph as a launching pad for the rest of the season.

“We still need some points (in the Bundesliga) so that those on top know that we are really coming with full steam ahead,” chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

The Champions League draw for the last 16 on December 18 could also give Bayern an encounter with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal, who have won their groups.

Barcelona and Inter Milan are two other possible group winners Bayern would be keen to avoid.

But former international Stefan Effenberg, who was captain of the Bayern side which last won the Champions League in 2001, believes van Gaal’s team must now fear no opponents.

“Who is going to stop them when Franck Ribery is back and fully fit?” he told Sky Sports.

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