Bayern Munich begin their Uefa Champions League title defence tonight against CSKA Moscow with warning words from the club’s sporting director ringing in the players’ ears.
Unprecedented success last season has been followed by an underwhelming start under new coach Pep Guardiola – by Bayern’s own lofty standards – prompting Matthias Sammer to warn against complacency ahead of the Russian league leader’s visit.
Bayern are attempting to become the first team since 1990 to defend the European Cup.
“It’s the nicest competition of the season,” Guardiola said yesterday. Czech champions Viktoria Plzen host Manchester City in the other Group D match.
No team has successfully defended the Champions League title since its inception in 1993.
“We’re a bit lethargic, we play football without emotion, we’re doing the minimum,” Sammer said after Bayern’s 2-0 German Bundesliga win over Hannover on Saturday. “That’s not enough for the level of football we want to play.”
Sammer pointed out that Bayern were beaten in the German Super Cup by Borussia Dortmund, “gave away points” in the Bundesliga to Freiburg, and was a referee’s whistle away from losing the Super Cup to Chelsea – Javi Martinez equalised with the last kick in extra time.
Guardiola said he was “satisfied” with his team’s performances to date “but we have to try and play over 90 minutes”.
Elsewhere, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale set to play against Galatasaray, Real Madrid will travel to Istanbul with the most expensive attacking line-up in football history.
Ronaldo renewed his contract with Madrid on Sunday and has set his mind on winning another European Cup.
“I don’t have doubts that sooner or later the 10th European Cup will arrive and I am convinced that it will be this year,” Ronaldo said.
Antonio Conte, the Juventus coach, thinks a Champions League final appearance is beyond the Italians but says he will not accept anything less than a win away to Copenhagen in their Group B opener. Juve returned to the competition last season after a three-year absence and made the quarter-finals.
Manchester United, playing in the Uefa Champions League without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm for the first time, will start their campaign in a group containing Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad and Shakhtar Donetsk. According to the new man in charge, David Moyes, Ferguson told him to brace himself for a difficult group phase. “He said he thinks it’s one of the hardest draws United have ever had in the Champions League,” Moyes said ahead of tonight’s home match against German side Leverkusen. “If that’s coming from him, it must be tough.”