By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN – Bayern Munich’s treble ambitions are put to the test on Wednesday in the German Cup quarter-final when their injury-hit side travel to in-form Bayer Leverkusen.
The Bavarians, runaway leaders in the Bundesliga and through to the Champions League last eight where they face Porto later this month, are eager to repeat their 2013 treble-winning campaign as the season enters its final stretch.
A 1-0 league victory at Borussia Dortmund on Saturday despite a string of absences was crucial to boost their confidence ahead of the Cup game, keeper Manuel Neuer said.
“The 1-0 victory was a very good sign for us,” Neuer, who made a spectacular save in stoppage time to protect their slim lead, told reporters.
“We have to try to carry this momentum to our game at Leverkusen.”
Bayern were without wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben as well as David Alaba, who tore a knee ligament and will be out for about two months.
They were also missing defender Holger Badstuber, forcing coach Pep Guardiola to overhaul his team and play a new-look midfield with captain Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
“I would have liked to have played differently but I have to adapt the system to my players.”
Guardiola, in his second season in charge after winning the domestic double last year, will have the chance to slightly alter his system again with midfielder Thiago Alcantara making a comeback on Saturday after more than a year out injured.
The addition of the skilled Spain international is undoubtedly a major asset when they take on Leverkusen, who crushed Hamburg SV 4-0 in their league game on Saturday.
Ribery could also be back in time for Wednesday’s game, providing Guardiola with more punching power.
Leverkusen, eager to remain in the top four to secure yet another Champions League campaign next season, have won their last five Bundesliga games without conceding a goal as they hit top form.
“We want to advance but we know it will be hard,” Leverkusen’s Gonzalo Castro said.
“We know what we can do and we can play with confidence. Our counter attacks are extremely fast and good. After our 4-0 win and five straight victories our confidence is very high.”
You may also like:
In another all-Bundesliga clash Borussia Dortmund, finalists last season, take on Hoffenheim on Tuesday eager to edge closer to the final and a possible European spot after a dismal league showing this season.
VfL Wolfsburg face Freiburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach take on third-tier Arminia Bielefeld in the other two quarter-finals. (Reuters)