EUROPEAN juggernauts, Bayern Munich and Manchester United, lock horns at the Allianz Arena for their opening Group A fixture in the Champions League today.
Boasting nine European crowns between them, the two teams last met in a competitive fixture nine years ago when Bayern ran out 3-1 winners in a quarter-final second-leg tie, while they last faced each other in the group stage back in 2001.
After winning each of their opening three Bundesliga games of the new season, Bayern Munich’s 100 per cent start came to an end when they were forced to settle for just a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen last Friday.
Head coach, Thomas Tuchel, felt that his side ‘needed more bite’ across the pitch to get themselves over the line, and the former Chelsea boss will be chomping at the bit to put things right for the Group A opener with Man United, a team who the German boss has never beaten on home soil as a manager in four previous attempts.
Bayern themselves have never lost at home to the Red Devils, though, winning three and drawing two, and Tuchel’s men will be confident of progressing to the Champions League knockout rounds for the 16th successive year considering that they are strong favourites to secure top spot in Group A ahead of Man United, Galatasaray and Copenhagen.
The German giants have established themselves as group-stage experts in the Champions League over the years, as they boast a remarkable 34-game unbeaten run at this stage, the longest such run in the competition’s history, and they will be looking to secure a record-extending 14th successive group-stage home win today.
Following a difficult week off the pitch, Man United boss, Erik ten Hag, was hoping to lift the atmosphere at Old Trafford with a positive result and performance from his players last weekend, but the Dutchman has instead been left with plenty to ponder after his side were booed off in a disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion.
Languishing in 13th place and already sitting nine points behind league leaders and bitter rivals, Manchester City, Ten Hag has insisted that Man United are not in crisis and has encouraged his squad to “stick to the plan” as they endeavour to turn their fortunes around.
Man United have only lost more Champions League encounters against Barcelona, five more than they have against Bayern’s four, although Red Devils supporters will certainly reminisce about the historic 1999 final triumph over the German club under former boss, Sir Alex Ferguson; one of just two wins against the Bundesliga side in Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
Tuchel briefly experimented with both Matthijs de Ligt and Noussair Mazraoui as defensive midfielders towards the end of the draw with Leverkusen following Kimmich’s second-half withdrawal, but the German’s potential absence on today will likely see Konrad Laimer start in centre-midfield alongside Goretzka.
Former Tottenham Hotspur talisman, Kane, has scored four goals in as many Bundesliga games so far this season, and the England captain is set to be joined in attack by Serge Gnabry and former Manchester City winger, Leroy Sane, while Jamal Musiala, who has recovered from injury, will battle with Thomas Muller for a start in the number 10 role.
As for Man United, they have been dealt with a fresh injury blow as Aaron Wan-Bissaka is facing “several weeks” out after sustaining an unspecified injury against Brighton; Diogo Dalot is therefore set to start at right-back.
Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia (all muscle), Mason Mount (hamstring), Sofyan Amrabat (back), Tom Heaton (calf), Amad Diallo (knee) and Kobbie Mainoo (ankle) are also on the sidelines, but Ten Hag has revealed that at least one of those players could be fit for the clash.