In pursuit of a fourth consecutive trip to the Champions League semifinals, Bayern Munich are determined to avoid the mistakes of last year when they pulled back slightly because of their breathless run in Bundesliga and carried that malaise over against Real Madrid in the semis.
"We've just had two games against Dortmund and Leverkusen which have pulled us even tighter together," forward Thomas Muller told reporters. "All that matters now is being united on the field, and we've got lots of self-confidence."
That self-confidence will be tested in Wednesday’s first leg quarterfinal against Porto at Dragao Stadium, especially with a litany of injuries on the German side. Manager Pep Guardiola stated that he has never dealt with an injury crisis like this in his career.
Munich enter the critical away half of the matchup without star wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, as well as midfielders Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger. On defense, left-back David Alaba and center-back Medhi Benatia are expected to miss out. However, center back Jerome Boateng is expected to be available.
But it’s not as if Munich will lack for scoring options as they remain on pace to secure a second treble in three years. Together Ribery and Robben have accounted for five Champions League goals, certainly a significant amount, but Munich still have Robert Lewandowski and Muller at the top of the attack. The pair has combined for 29 goals in Bundesliga play, and eight in Champions League matches this term.
Porto manager Julen Lopetegui could take advantage of the limping Germans, but they too will be without a key player. Top scorer and talisman Jackson Martinez returned to training after a hamstring injury, but isn't fit for the match. Five of the Colombian striker’s 26 goals in all competitions have come in Champions League play as Porto has yet to lose during this year’s tournament.
Porto is hoping to make the semis for the first time since 2004, when they last won the title, and Lopetegui doesn’t appear to be discouraged by Martinez’s expected absence.
"Playing the quarter-finals of a competition as big as this one is a reward for everyone," Lopetegui said. “The only thing on our mind is dream and ambition, there is nothing else to take to that game."
Lopetegui will also be without center back Ivan Marcano, who is serving a suspension.
Porto still has a pair of youngsters who can make an impact on the attacking front. Midfielder Oliver Torres, 20, and forward Cristian Tello, 23, have each recorded seven goals this year and will need to get on the board quickly to put pressure on Munich. Tello is not at full strength with a hamstring injury.
Porto haven’t loss in 12 straight matches, 10 of which were victories. They blasted Basel 5-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16.
Kickoff Time: 2:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 2
Prediction: Bayern Munich over Porto, 2-0