Football: Bayern focus on European prize

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The Independent Online
BAYERN MUNICH seek to end a decade of frustration when they face Dynamo Kiev tonight for a place in the European Cup final. "This is the most important game for us in 10 years, even more important than the final itself, if we get there," said the Bayern general manager, Uli Hoeness, whose men are firmly in the driving seat after snatching a 3-3 draw in the first leg in Kiev.

The Bavarians have collected plenty of domestic titles over the past few years and won the Uefa Cup in 1996, but success in Europe's showcase competition has eluded them since the last of three successive triumphs in 1976.

"The European Cup is the most beautiful of all titles and the most difficult to win," said Lothar Matthaus. "We want it. It is crucial for the club's image."

Standing between Bayern and their first final since 1987 (a 2-1 defeat by Porto in Vienna) are Dynamo Kiev, who have the most exciting pair of strikers in Europe this season in Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov.

"The 3-3 draw gives us an advantage but we must be careful," said the Bayern coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, aware that Kiev have already demonstrated that they can score anywhere.

The Ukrainians, still kicking themselves for letting a 3-1 lead slip at home, are confident Rebrov can shake off the knee injury which has bothered him for a month even though the 25-year-old Ukraine international sat out Friday's 1-0 league win over Kryvbas Kryviy Rih.

Bayern, who beat Bundesliga strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 on Friday, have worries of their own. The French defender Bixente Lizarazu and the Brazilian striker Elber both have torn knee ligaments and are unlikely to return before the end of the season, but goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who damaged a toe in a league match last week, has resumed training and will play. Hitzfeld should also be able to call on midfielder Jens Jeremies, who has had a sore thigh muscle but is back in training.

Bayern, seeking to become the first German club to win the European Cup and the domestic league and Cup in one season, are expected to field three strikers in Mario Basler, Alexander Zickler and Carsten Jancker.

"It would be a big tactical mistake to look for a goalless draw. We have to be aggressive," said Hitzfeld, who steered Borussia Dortmund to the European Cup in 1997.

Kiev relish counter-attacking and will know from the first leg, when they could have scored six, that Bayern's main weakness is their leaky defence. "We can score in Munich," said the Dynamo Kiev coach, Valery Lobanovsky. "The players know exactly what they have to do and that is to win the match. They can do it."

Honess, who knows all about winning European Cups as a member of the formidable Bayern side of the 1970s, disagrees. "If we score a goal there's no way we can lose," he said.

Bayern Munich (probable): Kahn; Matthaus, Babbel, Kuffour, Strunz, Jeremies, Effenberg, Tarnat, Basler, Jancker, Zickler.

Dynamo Kiev (probable): Shovkovsky; Luzhny, Golovko, Vashchyuk, Kaladze, Gusin, Khatskevich, Belkevich, Kosovsky, Shevchenko, Rebrov.