Football: Lowdown on Bayern... from Babbel to Zickler

The Bundesliga and former Celtic player Brian O'Neil gives the inside story on the men between United and European glory
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ALEX FERGUSON is not the only Scot who has been keeping a close eye on Bayern Munich. His countryman, Brian O'Neil, who plays with German club Vfl Wolsfburg, has noted just how Manchester United's Champions' League final opponents have been preparing for the Barcelona encounter, which forms part of their own historic treble: Bundesliga title, German Cup and European Cup.

Scotland player O'Neil moved to Germany last summer from Aberdeen, after a career largely spent at Celtic, and has helped Wolfsburg into fifth place in the Bundesliga, which almost certainly guarantees them a Uefa Cup place but they could also sneak into the Champions' League itself if they finish fourth.

Two encounters with Bayern this season, plus countless viewings on television, have given the 26-year-old a unique opportunity to assess the players who stand between Ferguson's team and a place in the history books, as he explains in his personal analysis of Bayern's likely team (in 3-5-2 formation):

Oliver Kahn: A goalkeeper who did not really impress me in the two games with Wolfsburg, which means he will probably have a good game against United. He tends to make quite a few mistakes, which he has done in the Bundesliga this season, and when Bayern were beaten 2-1 by Brondby on the opening night of the Champions' League. He is very confident, some might say arrogant, and is not shy about telling everyone how he is the best keeper in Germany. He recently said he would remain the German No 1 until 2006 and the other keepers could send in their applications then.

Markus Babbel: A big strong defender, who is right out of the German mould of athletes. I am sure a lot of English clubs would like to sign him and I think he was linked with United a few years ago. Ironically, he has not enjoyed the best of seasons but he is a favourite of the Bayern fans because he is a local. He and Sammy Kuffour are the markers in the back three, but Babbel can also play right-back if he has to.

Lothar Matthaus: The one guy who will give United chances to score. I am sure Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole will relish playing against him because, at 38, his pace is slipping, but also because he still does not think like a defender after all those years as an attacking midfielder and moves up too much. But still a quality player.

Sammy Kuffour: It is hard to believe he is so only 22, because he has been around so long. Bayern brought him from Ghana as a teenager. Made a bad error in the semi against Kiev, but that is balanced by his powerful shooting.

Thomas Strunz: The right-sided midfielder is not my favourite player, and was booed by the German fans against Scotland. He tends to dive into the tackle a bit, and Allan Johnston made a mug of him against Scotland with a great piece of skill. Strunz may find Ryan Giggs too much to handle as well. Bayern would be better opting for Thorsten Fink, who provides better cover.

Mario Basler: Central midfielder who scored a wonderful goal to put Bayern into the final, but tends to blow hot and cold. He stank for Germany against Holland, and three days later, in the Bundesliga, smashed a goal into the top corner.

Jens Jeremies: I first noticed him at the World Cup and I've been more impressed since I moved here. He has very quick feet, is a formidable worker and is hard to play against. He has been one of Bayern's main players, and he may benefit from Roy Keane's absence.

Stefan Effenberg: Few players live up to their billing, but Effenberg does. He possesses great skill, is a wonderful passer and can score spectacular goals. But, more important is his willingness to lead the team by example. He does not showboat and is not afraid of hard work or tackling. Effenberg may not want to play for Germany any more but they don't have anyone better.

Michael Tarnat: Surprisingly, Tarnat is one of the few players who lets down the German work ethic. He is a bit lazy, and often casual on the ball. He has come into the team only because of the injury to the French player, Bixente Lizarazu, at left wing-back. But he scored an important goal in the first match with Kiev which brought Bayern into the game.

Carsten Jancker: I've marked this striker twice this season and they don't come more awkward. He does not have tricks and will not try to beat you, but he knows how to hold the ball up and is difficult to handle because of his physique, as Kiev found out when he got the equaliser there. He also scored twice in the quarter-final against Kaiserslautern.

Alexander Zickler: He has done well against United in the past and is back in the team because of the injury to Bayern's Brazilian striker, Giovane Elber. Zickler does not have the best touch in the world but his pace is incredible. The best thing for United is that Elber, who scored both goals against them in Munich in the group game, is missing with injury, because he was in sensational form.

In an interview with Phil Gordon

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