Teams: SPORTING CP & Portugal NT
Uefa.com Match Preview
Coaches cautious for Lisbon showdown
Wednesday, 18 October 2006
by Pedro Gonçalves & Manfred Christoph
Although the top two in UEFA Champions League Group B come face to face at the Estádio José Alvalade on Wednesday evening when Sporting Clube de Portugal take on FC Bayern München, both coaches are keen to play down the importance of the match in Lisbon.
'Important but not decisive'
Sporting are second in the standings having defeated FC Internazionale Milano on Matchday 1 before a 1-1 draw at FC Spartak Moskva, results which leave the Portuguese side two points behind their German opponents. Whatever the outcome on Wednesday, Paulo Bento does not believe the game will prove crucial in the overall scheme of things, saying: "It will be an important match against a quality team who currently lead our group, but this is not a game that will decide anything."
The Sporting coach is likely to introduce Leandro Romagnoli, Pontus Farnerud and Ronny at the expense of Rodrigo Tello, João Alves and Yannick Djaló, and although three points would take his team above Bayern, avoiding defeat would satisfy him. "There could be new leaders in the group, and that is our wish," he said. "To achieve that, we must make Bayern suffer. We have to be strong in defence, get possession and know what we need to do when we lose the ball. We must make them play where they cannot harm us. Having said that, a less positive outcome, a draw, would still leave us in second place which gives us a good chance."
With Bayern taking maximum points from their first two fixtures, a third victory will put Felix Magath's men on the verge of the knockout rounds – a situation which leaves the coach caught between confidence and caution. "I am very optimistic," he said. "We can live with a draw but if we win we are almost through." That dilemma may have a knock-on effect on Bayern's lineup with Magath deliberating as to whether to start with three forwards - Lukas Podolski, Roy Makaay and Claudio Pizarro - as they did to positive effect in Saturday's 4-2 Bundesliga success against Hertha BSC Berlin.
"We are not obliged to set the tone for the game," the coach said. "We don't have to play with three up front - but it is an option." It would be a brave decision and Magath is not underestimating Sporting, adding that "the match will require all our efforts". It is a feeling shared by Makaay who believes the hosts will provide a stern test of Bayern's credentials. "We mustn't underestimate them," the former Dutch international said. "They beat Inter so are obviously a strong side."
This must have been written before Paulo Bento announced the squad for this game as in fact all the three players the journalist claims that might be launched for this game were not called.
Good tactic by Paulo Bento: he knows very well that in this group stage all games are important and decisive but it is good to say the opposite to take the pressure off of our less experienced players.
On the other hand it's true that we have done already much more than what most people expected from us so we have absolutely nothing to lose.
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”