Louis van Gaal's troubled tenure at Bayern Munich could be brought to an abrupt and premature conclusion if his side fail to beat Juventus and make the knockout stages of the Champions League.
The Dutchman, who lost a Champions League final to Juve when in charge of Ajax, only took on the role in July, but a fall out with the Italy striker Luca Toni and some erratic form in the Bundesliga has caused growing dissatisfaction. Victory would take Bayern into the knockout stages – a draw will steer Juventus through behind Bordeaux, Group A's surprise winners.
Bayern will again be without Franck Ribéry, the injured Frenchman is their main creative source, and without the banished Toni and injured Miroslav Klose as well, the Bavarians are shorn of attacking threat. Much will depend on Arjen Robben, who came off the bench in the Bundesliga at the weekend. Key defender Daniel van Buyten is also an injury doubt.
"We are Bayern, so we can beat every team," said Van Gaal yesterday before quickly adding the qualifier, "but at the same time we can lose against anyone.
"I can't say I'm satisfied with Bayern's results. I thought the squad would improve quicker than it has, but we've suffered a lot of injuries."
Juventus have injury worries of their own. Striker Vincenzo Iaquinta is out, while David Trezeguet and Giorgio Chiellini are both doubts. "It's an authentic final," Juve coach Ciro Ferrara said.
Real Madrid and Milan are the favourites to progress from Group C. Real need a point from their trip to Marseilles, while Milan will seal their place in the last 16 by winning in Zurich. A Marseilles victory could take the French side through at the expense of either of their illustrious opponents.
A revitalised Milan will be expected to return from Switzerland having done the necessary which would require Marseilles to beat Real – who will be without Kaka – by at least three goals. The former Real stalwart Fernando Morientes will be the home side's main hope of goals. "To play against them is something special," said Morientes.
Milan expect Ronaldinho to be fit as they strive to further a dramatic return to form. A 3-0 victory over Sampdoria lifted Leonardo's side to within four points of Internazionale at the top of Serie A. "This is a very mature squad, there's enthusiasm but no euphoria," said Milan's Brazilian coach. "I have no worries about the way the team is going to behave."
Leonardo's job had been perceived to be at risk following a dire start to the season, but tonight the focus of the sack race will be in Turin.Reuse content