Injury-hit Bayern face Czech test

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The Independent Online

Bayern Munich will be without 10 first-team players for their Champions' League trip to Sparta Prague, with the European champions still needing a draw to secure top spot in Group H.

The German club are only ahead of their hosts on goal difference and will be keen to secure seeding for the second stage of the competition by topping the group.

Despite their injuries, Bayern are on a fine run at the moment, having scored 19 goals in their last four games whilst remaining unbeaten in their last 16 matches.

That included a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Sparta in the Olympic Stadium and underlined Bayern's respect for the Czech side, who have emerged as one of the surprises of this season's Champions' League.

"We take every game seriously," coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. "If we come first, that's good for confidence and team morale. We can also win this game without playing our top players."

Bayern's injury list reads like a 'Who's Who' of the best footballers in Germany and is also a cause for concern for national team coach Rudi Völler with their World Cup play-offs against Ukraine just over a week away.

Missing the game in Prague are captain Stefan Effenberg, midfielders Mehmet Schöll, Jens Jeremies, Hasan Salihamidzic and Niko Kovac and strikers Carsten Jancker and Giovane Elber. French defenders Willy Sagnol and Bixente Lizarazu are also absent while Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn is being rested. Stefan Wessels will take Kahn's place.

Commercial manager Uli Hoeness said Bayern were taking the situation very seriously. "It's getting dramatic," said Hoeness. "We're not travelling there just for fun. We can't go there and say the game doesn't matter, we're through anyway. We need one more point.

"Prague are a very good team. They have shown that there are good footballers in the Czech Republic, without Tomas Rosicky and Jan Koller."

Meanwhile, Hertha Berlin's much-coveted German midfielder Sebastian Deisler is to join Bayern next season, ending months of speculation about his future.

Deisler said on Tuesday he planned to sign a four-year contract with Bayern Munich which would see him move to the German champions from 1 July, 2002.

The German Football Association (DFB) said earlier it had concluded an inquiry into an alleged irregular payment from Bayern to Deisler and was not planning to take any action.

German daily Bild reproduced earlier this month what it said was a cheque from Bayern's bank paying £5m to the German international.

Had it been confirmed that Bayern had paid the 21-year-old Deisler money prior to the signing of a transfer deal, Bayern would have faced stiff punishment from the DBA for breaching German rules on transfers.

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