Effenberg: Players face burn-out

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The Independent Football

Rangers headed for Germany today to prepare for their crucial match against Bayern Munich with their hosts embroiled in controversy.

Rangers headed for Germany today to prepare for their crucial match against Bayern Munich with their hosts embroiled in controversy.

Skipper Stefan Effenberg has claimed that the Champions League schedule shortens the career of professional footballers.

Matches have come thick and fast this season with teams usually playing once a week.

"The officials who make the decisions clearly can't have any idea what it is like," said the 31-year-old midfielder.

"I am convinced in the future professional footballers will have to end their career at an average age of 30-31 because their bodies can't continue to perform at this crazy level."

Effenberg also criticises the admission to the Champions League of teams that have not won the national championship.

"This distorts the competition," he said. "It is after all supposed to be the Champions League.

"But why am I bothering to say this anyway? The people who make the decisions aren't interested in what the players think."

While Effenberg is complaining, 20-year-old keeper Stefan Wessels is ecstatic at getting a regular run in the team as Oliver Kahn is injured.

Wessels made his debut at Ibrox after playing in a regional league and played impressively in the 1-1 draw. Since then has been on a roll.

"The match in Glasgow went really well but naturally I have to keep concentrating and working hard to do a good job," he said.

"Now I know how good I am and that I can keep up with the other players. So even if I do make a mistake I don't immediately start having second thoughts.

"Oli Kahn has given me a lot of good advice and I really like that. I can only benefit from his experience."

Wessels is an economics student, who takes Open University classes, and his studies have suffered because of his football.

"But right now I'm stressed with all the training and so I haven't been able to do any school work for a week," he said.

"But as you can imagine it has been more important for me to fully concentrate on football at the moment."

Bayern, despite a 5-0 defeat of Wolfsburg on Saturday, are jittery, knowing they will be out of the competition if Rangers pick up a point on Wednesday in the Olympic Stadium.

The Scottish Premier League leaders warmed up for the match by thrashing Aberdeen 5-1 despite being without Neil McCann, Rod Wallace, Jorg Albertz and Claudio Reyna, who were all injured.

Finland striker Jonatan Johansson staked his claim for a place in the side to face Bayern by grabbing a hat-trick.

Manager Dick Advocaat said: "We will have to discuss that matter with some of the players.

"I don't know yet about the team in Munich but most of our players should be fit for the game."

Reyna is set to feature in the side for the first time in five weeks after suffering a hamstring injury during the 1-0 victory against PSV Eindhoven in Holland.

Michael Mols came off with a knock at Pittodrie but is expected to be fit to face the Germans.

He said: "This is a massive, massive night for Rangers. The stakes are so high for us because it is the dream of all players to go into the last 16."