Football: Motor Matthaus

Kieran Daley says the veteran libero remains Bayern's key man

THREE MONTHS ago, after the group stage had been completed, Uefa asked the editor of Germany's most prestigious football publication, Kicker, to predict the Champions' League finalists. Rainer Holzschuh had no hesitation. He went straight for Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

"I was convinced they were the two best teams," Holzschuh said yesterday. "I was impressed by United's speed and technique and by Bayern's physical strength and tactical awareness. Forget the fact that neither of them had won their respective league titles, they were the two most complete sides in the competition."

What Holzschuh cannot now do is predict the outcome on 26 May. He, like everyone else in Germany, including the Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, calls it 50-50. The potential confrontations are intriguing, not least that between Alex Ferguson and the equally canny Hitzfeld, who masterminded Borussia Dortmund's semi-final elimination of United two seasons ago and is plotting a repetition.

"Everyone respects him," Holzschuh said. "What he has been able to do is to get everybody pulling together. He isn't at all impressed by reputations and he isn't afraid to leave players out if they are not performing."

Only Bayern's goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, whose early saves on Wednesday kept his side on level terms until Mario Basler's 35th-minute winner, has been spared Hitzfeld's policy of rotation. Even the maverick of German football, Stefan Effenberg, has had to fall into line with Hitzfeld's law. Effenberg, 30, oozed authority as Bayern started shakily against Kiev but ended up comfortable winners, despite the slender scoreline.

Effenberg was sent home in disgrace by Berti Vogts during the 1994 World Cup for an obscene gesture. Vogts said he would never pick Effenberg again but recalled him for a couple of friendlies in Malta last year. Effenberg called Vogts' bluff by saying that he had decided that he never wanted to play for his country again. Vogts has since departed but Effenberg has concentrated on his club form. Germany's loss has been Bayern's gain. Many observers believe that Effenberg is now playing the finest football of his career. He and Jens Jeremies ripped the spirit out of Kiev just when it seemed the Ukrainians, all in white and playing like the old Real Madrid for 15 minutes, might grace the final with their sublime skills.

With their Brazilian Elber out for the rest of the season with knee- ligament injuries, Bayern missed a hatful of chances in the second half, with Alexander Zickler the main culprit. Given the same space against United, he is unlikely to be as profligate, though there is nothing in Bayern's attack for Jaap Stam and Co to be scared of.

It is in midfield and from sweeper where Bayern pose the greatest threat. Lothar Matthaus, looking as fit as a 25-year-old, remains a master of reading the game at 38. Hitzfeld, aware of Matthaus' inexorably waning physical powers, rests his libero for meaningless matches, leaving him sharp for the big occasion.

As Bayern prepare for a treble of their own, they have one distinct advantage over their English counterparts. They are already 10 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, an indication, if ever one was needed, of their new-found impregnability under Hitzfeld.

Today Bayern go into one of their most highly charged matches of the season, the derby against the city's blue-collar team, Munich 1860. Unlike Manchester United, they can afford to lose it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine