Friday, 29th September 2023

Bayern relishing the pressure as stars vow to down Villarreal

Bayern Munich stars have vowed to knock Villarreal out of the Champions League with Leon Goretzka insisting the German giants are relishing the pressure of Tuesday's must-win home quarter-final.

Villarreal’s French midfielder Francis Coquelin (C) fights for the ball with Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (R) during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg football match between Villarreal CF and Bayern Munich at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on April 6, 2022. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

Bayern Munich stars have vowed to knock Villarreal out of the Champions League with Leon Goretzka insisting the German giants are relishing the pressure of Tuesday’s must-win home quarter-final.

“We love these moments and it’s what the fans want to see,” said Goretzka, still sporting a black eye from the bruising first-leg defeat in Spain.

The Germany midfielder predicts that an electric atmosphere at Munich’s Allianz Arena will inspire an improved – “Bayern-like” – performance from the hosts.

Villarreal earned a 1-0 win in last week’s first leg with Dutch striker Arnaut Danjuma netting the early winner in Spain before having a second goal disallowed.

Under pressure
Bayern had few answers and were lucky to leave Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica without conceding more.

“We are under pressure,” admitted Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann as the German giants face a Champions League quarter-final exit for the second year running.

After their stuttering display at Villarreal, Bayern again struggled against Augsburg on Saturday until a late Robert Lewandowski penalty sealed the 1-0 win.

Nagelsmann wants to see an improvement of “60, 70 per cent”, but insists “on Tuesday we’ll settle the score”.

Goretzka says Bayern relish such challenges at Munich’s Allianz Arena.

“It’s the time of year when knockout games are played and when titles are at stake.

“We’re extremely excited about that.”

Bayern captain Manuel Neuer echoed similar sentiments “we’ll be ready. It’s down to us – we are all fired up.”

Bayern already proved they can turn around a poor first-leg.

In the last 16, a 1-1 draw at Red Bull Salzburg was backed up by Bayern dishing out a 7-1 thrashing in Munich with Lewandowski bagging a hat-trick.

Yet for all their defiance, Bayern are currently struggling for form.

“Not everyone’s at their peak yet,” admitted Nagelsmann who subbed off both underperforming wingers Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane on Saturday.

Even midfield enforcer Joshua Kimmich did “not have a great day”.

Bayern’s key leaders – Thomas Mueller, Kimmich and Neuer – were subdued against both Villarreal and Augsburg.

Nagelsmann is at a loss – “it’s not really easy” – to explain why Bayern had “too little pace, were too slow with the ball, missing the necessary verve”.

His team also struggled to finish chances on Saturday, just as they had done in Spain.

With Liverpool or Benfica waiting in the semi-finals, Nagelsmann knows Bayern must grind out a victory.

‘Don’t shine, just win’
“We are at a time in the season where you don’t have to shine, but just win.”

Bayern are on the verge of a tenth straight Bundesliga title as they hold a nine-point lead with five games left.

Yet as Nagelsmann knows, Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn will judge this season on whether they squeeze past Villarreal to reach the last four in Europe.

Bayern are banking on home support to carry them through.

“It’s completely different when the stadium is full,” added Lewandowski, who has chalked up 12 goals in nine games this season in Europe.

“I hope they will support us loudly on Tuesday.”

However, no Bayern fan needs reminding of last season’s 3-2 home defeat to Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The Bavarians bowed out despite a 1-0 win in Paris.