Bayern Munich kick off their Champions League campaign at home to Anderlecht on Tuesday, with German pundits sharpening their knives for coach Carlo Ancelotti amid unrest in his star-studded squad.
Bayern crashed to a shock 2-0 defeat at Hoffenheim on Saturday which left them sixth in the Bundesliga table – their worst position after the first three games since 2010/11.
German fans nickname the defending Bundesliga champions ‘FC Hollywood’ for times when in-fighting starts and tensions bubble and drama is threatening to unfold once more in Munich.
Ancelotti has a few key areas to address for the opening Group B match, with Paris Saint-Germain and Celtic to come in Europe.
Thomas Muller set up two goals last Monday for Germany in a World Cup qualifier, yet was poor on the right wing at Hoffenheim in his 400th game for Bayern.
The stats say he won just 20 percent of his challenges and touched the ball only 32 times before being hauled off on 78 minutes.
Muller, a cult figure at Bayern, complained about starting on the bench for their win at Werder Bremen two weeks ago, yet did nothing against Hoffenheim to help his cause.
Germany head coach Joachim Loew lets Mueller roam as an attacking midfielder, but Thiago Alcantara fills the number 10 role under Ancelotti, who has yet to find the best place at Bayern for Mueller.
“Of course, there is tension. Muller is not a ‘7’ like Robben or a ‘9’ like Lewandowski, he is a free spirit,” said Bayern legend Lothar Matthaeus.
“If a coach knows how to treat him, that helps the team, but if the coach isn’t 100 percent convinced, then it is hard for him.”
When faced with a group of star players and only 11 names to pick, rotating the team often helps a Bayern coach keep egos happy in his squad.
However, Ancelotti paid the price for starting with wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben on the bench in Hoffenheim.
Robben, 33, came on for the last 33 minutes while Ribery, 34, who is fit after spending the international break training, only played the last 12 minutes alongside James Rodriguez, who made his debut.
“I would have started with my full-strength team,” said Matthaeus. “He (Ancelotti) certainly didn’t help matters with his team line-up.”
With Mueller having moaned about being benched and Robert Lewandowski criticising the club’s spending policy, the attitude of Bayern’s stars does not help.
Only a spirited and dominant performance against Anderlecht and at home in the league to Mainz on Saturday will get the Bavarian giants back on track.
“It’s not so bad,” said defender Mats Hummels after the Hoffenheim defeat. “But only if we show the right reaction – two home wins this week.”
Ancelotti cuts a calm figure on the sidelines with arms folded, quietly chewing gum and rarely barking instructions.
It contrasts with his predecessor Pep Guardiola, who would rant heatedly on the sidelines when urging and organising his players.
“I miss the chaos and craziness, like under Pep Guardiola,” said ex-Germany and Bayern midfielder Paul Breitner.
“Carlo Ancelotti has not let the team develop. “I haven’t seen any movement, it’s all static and the team has taken at least a step backwards.
“Some of the players seem to be restricted, above all Thomas Mueller, but what about David Alaba?
“When was the last time we saw him play a game when he was tearing up and down the wing for 90 minutes?”
Bayern won the 2013 Champions League with an attack-minded 4-2-3-1 system, while Ancelotti likes a 4-3-3 line-up.
Even captain Manuel Neuer diplomatically admitted that Ancelotti’s system does not always allow enough players to push forward on attack.
“We had too few players in the box,” said Neuer in Hoffenheim. “It isn’t necessarily the fault of the system, but perhaps another system would allow more players in the box.”
Provided by AFP Sport
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is targeting Sir Alex Ferguson’s record of the most Champions League matches as a manager.
The Portuguese has taken charge of 133 games in the competition, 61 short of Ferguson’s all-time high figure, winning it twice – with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010.
He returns to the Champions League with United later this month looking for an extended stay to give him a run at Ferguson’s landmark.
“I know that I am in the top five or six but I’m quite far, especially from the top one but I will fight hard to go for that record,” he told MUTV.
“Last season, I lost a season in the chase for this record (as United won the Europa League) but Manchester United is where Manchester United has to be and I’m really happy with that.
“But the Champions League is where we want to be and maybe I’m too ambitious, I don’t know, but I want to be the manager with more matches (in the Champions League).
“It’s good for the players, it’s good for me, it’s good for the club.
“The Champions League night is a unique experience for everyone. I have some players without that great experience, I think it will be fabulous for them and the fans to be back in the Champions League and to have the initial three matches to be played at Old Trafford, I think is fantastic.”
United face Benfica, Swiss champions Basel and CSKA Moscow when the group stage begins next week.
Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City will face one of the three best footballing sides in Europe in this season’s Champions League.
City’s seventh successive campaign in the elite competition will feature group games against Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli and Feyenoord.
A general opinion is that the draw could have been tougher but Guardiola is expecting some difficult competition, particularly from Italian outfit Napoli.
The City manager said: “When the (team from the) third pot is Napoli – the best team in that pot – it is complicated.
“In the Champions League we expect pots one and two will be strong but here all the teams are strong.
“We’re going to face the team who played the best football in Italy. I’m not talking about winning – I like to watch the teams who want to play – and in Italy, where the culture is defensive in the box, they play 40 metres in front. With the ball they are fantastic.
“For me, they are one of the three best teams right now in Europe playing football.
“And of course the other ones we are going to see. The Champions League is always complicated. Everyone can beat you home and away.”
While that competition will not begin until next month, City’s immediate thoughts are on Saturday’s Premier League trip to Bournemouth.
City will be looking to get back to winning ways after being held to a draw by Everton on Monday.
The Cherries have lost both their league games so far but Guardiola is wary of Eddie Howe’s side.
Guardiola said: “Bournemouth can play the football they want to play. The manager is so good like that. They had a fantastic season last season.
“They started with two defeats but sometimes that can happen. It is just in the beginning. I know it will be very complicated.”