ROME – Injury-plagued defending champion Bayern Munich will have to regain top form to kick off its UEFA Champions League knockout campaign in auspicious fashion against Lazio, which is set to make an appearance at this stage of the competition for the first time in 20 years.
Fresh off winning the FIFA Club World Cup, the German powerhouse dropped five points in their following two Bundesliga games while missing several players including Thomas Müller, who tested positive for coronavirus while in Qatar.
Remaining on the sidelines too is French right back Benjamin Pavard, who has also contracted COVID-19, French midfielder Corentin Tolisso of France and Brazil forward Douglas Costa, while forward Serge Gnabry has yet to get back to top form after recovering from injury.
“Now we need to be in top form in the Champions League. These are special matches for us and I’m expecting the team to be especially motivated,” Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick said at a presser ahead of Tuesday’s game.
At the other end of the field will be pressure-free Lazio, who will be seeking out another surprise after stunning Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the round robin.
Coach Simone Inzaghi’s men will draw strength from their unbeaten group phase run, relying on wonders of Spain’s Luis Alberto and Serbia’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and forward Ciro Immobile’s killer instinct.
“We will try to play a game that allows us to stay alive in the fight for qualification. On paper, Bayern are invincible, but we are mature and many times, when we were not favorites, we did great things,” Inzaghi said during a presser.