Successful surgery for Bayern midfielder Thiago

The Spain international has had a ruptured knee ligament repaired but still faces another long layoff from first-team football

Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara has undergone successful surgery as he prepares for another long spell on the sidelines.

The Spain international suffered another blow when he sustained a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in training last week.

Thiago has been plagued by injuries since his move from Barcelona 15 months ago and Bayern coach Pep Guardiola admitted the Bundesliga champions may have made a mistake in the manner in which they managed his previous knee problem.

The Bavarian giants revealed on Thursday that the 23-year-old has gone under the knife and the operation went according to plan.

A club statement said: “The operation in Barcelona, ​​attended by FCB team doctor Dr Lutz Hansel, was completed without any complications.

“However, Thiago faces a long lay-off and is likely to be out of action for several months.”

Free-scoring Bayern face Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga on Sunday, when they will be eyeing a seventh consecutive victory in all competitions.

Benatia: Bayern's Roma beating bittersweet

The defender revealed that his old team-mates were devastated at being beaten 7-1 on home turf in midweek and is now hoping that the Giallorossi can still reach the last 16

Mehdi Benatia conceded that Bayern Munich’s walloping of former club Roma on Tuesday was a bittersweet experience for him.

The Moroccan centre-back spent a season at the Stadio Olimpico boosting his reputation as a world-class defender before moving to the Allianz Arena in August.

Benatia returned to Roma with his new Bayern team-mates on Tuesday and took part in a trouncing of last season’s Scudetto runners-up that left the centre-half with mixed emotions.

“It was something special for me to play against my old friends,” he told the Bundesliga champions’ website. “It was a good return for me, a great game from us.

“Most important are the three points. The key to the victory was our respect of Roma – coach Pep Guardiola rightly told us before the game that they are a top team with plenty of quality.

“Though I am very satisfied with the win, but at the same time it’s bittersweet because they’re my old friends. The club and the city are in my heart.

Benatia revealed that, understandably, Rudi Garcia’s men were devastated by the Champions League loss but – with Roma still second in the group with three games to go – he hopes they can follow Bayern into the last 16 at Manchester City and CSKA Moscow’s expense.

“Of course they were all very disappointed,” he added. “To lose 7-1 just hurts.

“But they still look good as a team. I hope they qualify for the knockout stages with us.”

As for his negative reception, with many within the club having slammed his departure at the end of the transfer window as treachery, Benatia added: “Honestly, I hardly heard the whistles.”

Bayern are back in action on Sunday away to Borussia Monchengladbach, who are currently runners up behind them in the Bundesliga.

The 'Russian Mafia' defeat Sporting and five things we learned from the Champions League this week

COMMENT: Schalke were the subject of conspiracy talk after their controversial win while the number of goals scored sounds a warning bell for the tournament’s competitiveness

By Peter StauntonIt rained goals on matchday three in the Champions League. In Group A, Atletico Madrid exercised their dominance over Malmo while Juventus were again beneath the required standard, losing to Olympiakos in Greece.

In Group B, Real Madrid demolished Liverpool but Basel slipped up at Ludogorets to leave the runners-up spot up for grabs. Leverkusen sunk Zenit in Group C, 2-0, while the only scoreless game in the round came between Monaco and Benfica.

Arsenal’s late, late show ensured three points at Anderlecht in Group D, with Dortmund again in cruise control over Galatasaray in Istanbul as Jurgen Klopp’s men maintained their 100 per cent record. Pep Guardiola masterminded a master class as Bayern laid down a marker in Group E, winning 7-1 on the road at Roma. Manchester City slipped up again, though, this time in the cold of Moscow, as they drew 2-2 with CSKA.

Barcelona were supreme in Group F in a 3-1 win over Ajax but Paris St-Germain were made to work for their 1-0 victory in Cyprus against Apoel. Chelsea seized control of Group G with a 6-0 thumping of Maribor while the game of the week was arguably Schalke’s dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind win over 10-man Sporting.

Rounding things out in Group H, Porto beat struggling Athletic Bilbao 2-1, while special praise must be reserved for Shakhtar Donetsk, who, thanks to five Luiz Adriano goals, beat BATE 7-0.

Here is the story of matchday three …

Let the richest team win

Tuesday night brought 40 goals in eight matches, which was a Champions League record. While Sporting’s valiant attempt to claim a point with 10 men against Schalke was laudable and CSKA Moscow impressed in clawing back a 2-0 deficit against Manchester City, the rest of the games delivered in an overt manner an indictment on the current state of affairs in the competition.

The richest teams win. A 0-7 home defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk on BATE and Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Maribor were one-sided and anti-competitive. Bayern Munich’s 7-1 dismissal of Roma was illustrative of the gigantic strides by which the German giants remain ahead of their competitors.

The Champions League is, therefore, a battle of resources. Those teams with the most money and the highest concentration of big players on their wage bills will win. The current status quo is for the best teams in Spain, England and Germany, as well as Italy and France, to consolidate the wealth gap between themselves and the have-nots. Financial Fair Play and the banning of third-party ownership are also designed with that in mind – to ensure the upstarts don’t go rocking the boat by trying to compete.

While fans of the team dishing out the beatings might purr at their performances, for the rest of the continent, games like that only serve to illustrate the dearth of competition at the top level in the European game. It is alarming and damaging to the Champions League’s credibility.

The group stages, by and large, are a complete dawdle for the big teams where they introduce new young players and save the legs of their stars. There is no true measure of the Champions League’s competitiveness until the very late stages of the knockouts. The order is very much preserved where the biggest teams from the biggest leagues have things all their own way until the herd is trimmed.

Enjoy the goals but question the competitiveness.

Shakhtar and Luiz Adriano shine in adversity

This week, the Donbass Arena, Shakhtar Donetsk’s home ground, was heavily damaged by an explosion nearby. On the same day, the club were delivering humanitarian aid to those affected by the troubles in the beleaguered region.

Against this bleak backdrop, the Ukrainian champions are attempting to conduct a domestic campaign as well as a Champions League run.

It is a destabilising season by any team’s standards. Shakhtar are playing their ‘home’ matches 1,200 km away from their Donbass Arena base in Lviv due to the ongoing unrest in Ukraine.

On the pitch, they are not letting the trouble on the home front affect their output, at least not in the Champions League. While there have been two recent defeats domestically, including earlier this month against arch-rivals Dynamo Kyiv, this week brought their best result in Champions League history.

Mircea Lucescu’s side won 7-0 away to BATE, with Luiz Adriano scoring five goals. Fellow Brazilians Alex Teixeira and Douglas Costa, who also opted to stay with the club despite offers to leave Ukraine this summer, were on the scoresheet, too.

“We had problems with the squad at the beginning of the season as some very important players for the club didn’t want to return to Ukraine.” Lucescu said last month. “But now they are here, they see that it’s safe to be with the club and we play and train in the safe places.”

Shakhtar are now well-placed to take a knockout berth in Group H ahead of Athletic Bilbao and BATE, with Porto currently topping the table.

Late Schalke show leaves Sporting spitting

Sporting were fuming following their side’s 4-3 defeat away at Schalke. Jonathan Silva, the Argentine full-back, was deemed to have played the ball with his hand inside the area deep into injury time. This permitted Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to slot the winner past Rui Patricio, who had earlier committed a calamitous error.

That 10-man Sporting had also fought back from 3-1 down to level at 3-3 following Mauricio’s red card made the blow even harder to take.

“What happened is not normal. It is a tremendous injustice. I don’t feel like saying anything else about it,” coach Marco Silva told the press afterwards.

Former director of Sporting’s General Assembly, Eduardo Barroso, told Portuguese radio on Tuesday night that the result was the work of “Russian mafia”, while fans took to social networks to criticise Uefa.

The reason? Schalke’s tie-up with Champions League sponsor Gazprom. The Russian energy giant is the chief sponsor of both Schalke and the tournament itself, while the appointment of a Russian official for the game, Sergey Karasev, has left all connected with Sporting crying travesty.

The nature of the penalty kick was contentious to say the least. The ball struck Silva square in the face from a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar header and there did not seem to be any suggestion at first that a penalty would be given. On advice from the fifth official behind the goal, however, Karasev acted.

Uefa did not respond when this writer asked whether or not there was a conflict of interest in having teams sponsored by Gazprom in a tournament also sponsored by the same company. Nor did it respond to the question of whether or not it is worried about accusations stemming from the relationship.

The governing body’s close links with the company were put under scrutiny last year when an anti-Gazprom banner was unfurled at the Basel-Schalke group stage match at St Jakob Park. This season, the relationship, ratified for three seasons in 2012, is again back in the spotlight.

Meanwhile, Sporting are left with one point from three games and look certain to be eliminated as Schalke and Chelsea, incidentally also sponsored by Gazprom, take control of Group G.

Olympiakos keep on rolling

Michel remains on the bench but this is a very different Olympiakos team to that which emerged from the group stages of the Champions League last season before being eliminated by a brilliant Robin van Persie hat-trick at Old Trafford.

Gone are talents like Joel Campbell and Hernan Perez, who were on loan last term, as well as established Greece internationals Andreas Samaris, Kostas Manolas and Jose Holebas – all key players sold for good money.

There were eight new faces in the team which beat Atletico Madrid on matchday one, including a brand new back four, and there were seven in the side which downed Italian champions Juventus on the third matchday in Piraeus. Happily for Olympiakos, goalkeeper Roberto is still in the ranks and again proved his worth on Wednesday.

While Kostas Mitroglou has returned to a club he knows well, fresh faces like Ibrahim Afellay and Pajtim Kasami have come in and impressed.

There have been teething problems in the Greek Superleague – Olympiakos fans are not, after all, accustomed to dropping four points in their first five matches – but results in the Champions League have been characteristically defiant. Their 1-0 success over Juve made it five consecutive home wins in the competition.

The Malmo reverse will have to be marked down as a shock but Michel has constructed a pair of victories over last year’s finalists, Atletico, as well as Juve. With the Italians as bad as ever in recent times in this season’s competition, that win might not look impressive, but those vital three points will count for a lot once the knockout places are decided.

Olympiakos are turning the tables on the favoured sides.

All but over for pathetic Galatasaray

It is a tough Champions League group, admittedly, but it is the nature of their two defeats which should have the alarm bells ringing for Galatasaray. A 4-1 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates and a 4-0 loss at home against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday mean that Gala are staring down the barrel after three matchdays. It would take a spectacular collapse from either Arsenal or Dortmund to facilitate the Turks going through now.

And with the Turk Telecom Arena proving to be no match for the raucous atmosphere at their old ground, the Ali Sami Yen, Galatasaray can no longer count even on the fervent support of their fans. With good reason.

“We must improve but our primary target is the Turkish league,” coach Cesare Prandelli told Smartspor after the Dortmund game. “The Galatasaray board brought me here for the league title, for the fourth star. Now we must focus on the championship.”

Just as well, because their Champions League form is absolutely hopeless. Gala have won two of their last 11 matches at this level and none of their last five. Furthermore, they only managed to claim an automatic place in this season’s competition because arch-rivals Fenerbahce, who won the league, are suspended from European competition.

The club is in complete turmoil from top to bottom. An indifferent start to the Turkish Super Lig season for the Lions – one win from three as well as a Super Cup defeat to Fener – combined with awful Champions League form, meant that Cesare Prandelli was fighting to save his job after only a couple of months in charge. The 2-1 weekend win over Fener in the Istanbul derby courtesy of two Wesley Sneijder wonder goals was widely seen to be the result that saved him.

The man who hired Prandelli, Unal Aysal, has also dropped the bombshell that he will not be seeking re-election in the club’s presidential run-off this week. Given that Aysal was the man responsible for the big-money signings of Sneijder and Didier Drogba, as well as delivering two league titles through Fatih Terim, Prandelli and the club as a whole are on uncertain ground.

Up to this point there has been no pattern to Galatasaray’s play under Prandelli and he has tried out a number of different formations to little avail. Summer transfer targets like Lukas Podolski were missed, while Blerim Dzemaili and Goran Pandev are fulfilling their status as Serie A cast-offs.

Although they remain second in the league, Galatasaray have plenty of work on to ensure qualification for the same stage of next season’s competition.

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'Roma couldn't string three passes together' – Pjanic embarrassed by Bayern beating

The Bosnian was stunned that the Bavarians so easily swept aside last season’s Scudetto runners-up and blamed conceding in the opening 10 minutes on his side’s capitulation

Miralem Pjanic expressed his embarrassment that Roma “couldn’t string three or four passes together” as they were thrashed by Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Arjen Robben (two), Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri all got on the scoresheet as Pep Guardiola’s men easily dispatched the Giallorossi at the Stadio Olimpico, with only a Gervinho consolation goal to take from the 7-1 hammering.

Pjanic was shocked at how he and his Roma team-mates were humiliated in the Champions League group stage game, but believes it all could have gone so differently had they not let Bayern take the lead in the opening 10 minutes.

“If we hadn’t conceded the goal so early, it would’ve been a different game,” the midfielder, 24, told Sky Sport.

“Bayern pressed for 90 minutes, never allowing us space, as every time we had the ball in midfield there was someone on us.

“We couldn’t string three or four passes together or play our usual football. It’s a crying shame, we faced a very strong side, but we are still second in the group and have to avoid anything like this happening again.

“We expected a very different night. It is difficult to accept it or to say anything intelligent or constructive. This is not the real Roma and I can’t explain what happened.

“No one expected this, now we have to put it behind us and from Saturday start winning again.”

Roma have Serie A games against Sampdoria, Cesena and Napoli to regain some confidence before they travel to the Allianz Arena to face Bayern again on Wednesday November 5.

Last season’s Scudetto runners-up remain second in Group E due to Manchester City and CSKA Moscow’s draw prior to Roma’s heavy defeat on Tuesday.

Bayern can improve on 7-1 rout, says Guardiola

The five-time European champions were sensational in brushing aside Roma but their Spanish coach insists they can play even better

Pep Guardiola deflected the glory for Bayern Munich’s 7-1 thrashing of Roma on to his players – but insisted they could still do even better.

Bayern were rampant at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday, racing into a 5-0 half-time lead before cruising through the second period to move top of Champions League Group E.

It was suggested afterwards that Guardiola had got his tactics spot on but the former Barcelona boss preferred to direct the plaudits elsewhere.

He told Sky: “There are no good tactics without good players. This club has great presidents, great people and great players. It is about getting the best out of them.

“There are always little things you can improve, however. This was no normal situation, but you always have to keep going.

“It was a great first half, the last 10 minutes were fantastic. The second half was quieter. Roma are usually a great team, but we were very aggressive.

“We had good possession, found the spaces and used them. The guys up front – Robert [Lewandowski], Thomas [Muller] and Arjen [Robben] – did a great job.“

Robben started the rout before Mario Gotze – who scored twice in Bayern’s 6-0 demolition of Werder Bremen on Saturday – doubled the advantage.

Lewandowski’s header made it 3-0 after 25 minutes before Robben’s second and a contentious Muller penalty added further gloss.

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had kept clean sheets in his last eight matches and appeared destined to extend that run with superb saves in the second half from Alessandro Florenzi and Gervinho before the latter scored a consolation in the 66th minute.

It proved brief respite for Roma, though, as substitutes Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri capped a wonderful evening for the Bundesliga champions, who can now reach the knockout stages by beating Roma in the return match at the Allianz Arena on November 5.

Robben said: “We expected a difficult match. Roma are having a great season and are a great team that can play nice football. So this is a big compliment to our team and to our coaches. They prepared us very well for this match and the tactics deserve compliments.

“This is not the evening to talk about my performance, but to talk about the team. It was superb, especially going 5-0 up after half an hour.

“You have to enjoy evenings like this. There will be much applause, because we played so well but let’s keep our feet on the ground. It is still early in this season. This may sound bad after you won 7-1, but there are always little things you can improve. It is only October and the trophies are won in May.“

Bayern & Shakhtar help to smash Champions League goals record

The previous best mark of 36 goals in one night was beaten in a magnificent evening of entertainment across the continent

A sensational 40 goals were scored in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, shattering the competition record under its present format.

Bayern Munich’s 7-1 victory away to Roma in Group E led the way, while Luiz Adriano’s five goals inspired Shakhtar Donetsk to a 7-0 win at BATE Borisov.

A dramatic 4-3 win for Schalke over Sporting Lisbon also saw the net bulge at regular intervals, while Chelsea were not shy in front of goal either, grabbing six to see off Maribor.

Elsewhere, Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Ajax and the 2-2 draw between CSKA Moscow and Manchester City served up four goals apiece. The relatively tame affairs came at Porto, who beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1, and in Nicosia, where a late strike by Edinson Cavani saw Paris Saint-Germain past APOEL.

The total marks a new high for the Champions League since group fixtures were split over two nights of eight fixtures, overcoming the previous record of 36 set on September 13, 2000 which included a memorable 4-4 draw between Hamburg and Juventus.

However, there was one night of Champions League action which featured more goals, back on October 1, 1997. That night, 44 goals were scored in the 12 games played under the previous 24-team format of the competition.

Roma 1-7 Bayern Munich: Robben rampant as Bavarians send out Champions League warning

The Dutchman scored twice as Pep Guardiola’s side swept their opponents aside at the Stadio Olimpico to take firm control of their Champions League group

Bayern Munich produced a scintillating display to batter Roma 7-1 and take firm control of Champions League Group E on Tuesday.

The Germans were expected to face a difficult task in Rome, but Pep Guardiola’s men made a mockery of those predictions as they ran riot. 

Roma had lost just one competitive home match in 2014 and conceded only once in five wins at the Stadio Olimpico this term, but Rudi Garcia’s side were left shell-shocked by Bayern’s blitz of five goals in the space of 28 first-half minutes.

Arjen Robben started the rout before Mario Gotze – who scored twice in Bayern’s 6-0 demolition of Werder Bremen on Saturday – doubled the advantage.

Robert Lewandowski’s header made it 3-0 after 25 minutes before Robben’s second and a contentious Thomas Muller penalty added further gloss.

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had kept clean sheets in his last eight matches and appeared destined to extend that run with superb saves in the second half from Alessandro Florenzi and Gervinho before the latter scored a consolation in the 66th minute.

It proved brief respite for Roma, though, as substitutes Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri capped a wonderful evening for the Bundesliga champions, who can now reach the knockout stages by beating Roma in the return match at the Allianz Arena on November 5, as Manchester City could only draw 2-2 at CSKA Moscow earlier on Tuesday.

It took Bayern just eight minutes to find the breakthrough as Robben played a swift one-two with Philipp Lahm before cutting inside former Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole down the Roma left and providing a trademark curling finish into the far corner.

Roma almost found a quick response when Gervinho latched on to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s through ball, but he was thwarted by a smart stop from Neuer.

However, Roma’s evening soon unravelled in stunning fashion.

First, Gotze finished a wonderfully crafted move after 23 minutes, receiving a flick from Muller and side-footing into the left-hand corner from the edge of the box.

It became 3-0 less than two minutes later when the unmarked Lewandowski adjusted his feet well in the penalty area to head home Juan Bernat’s left-wing cross.

Lewandowski then turned provider for the fourth with a well-weighted pass for Robben and his strike was too powerful for Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis.

The fifth arrived 10 minutes before the break when Kostas Manolas was harshly adjudged to have handled while sliding to block David Alaba’s low cross and Muller placed the resulting penalty into the bottom right-hand corner.

With the game essentially over as a contest, Bayern relaxed after the break and Roma almost capitalised when Gervinho’s shot rebounded off the post in the 54th minute.

Shortly after, substitute Florenzi’s half-volley brought the best out of Neuer, who stood tall to beat away the shot.

Neuer then showed why he is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world when he somehow kept out Gervinho’s point-blank shot inside the six-yard box after he met Miralem Pjanic’s free-kick.

Gervinho finally got the better of Neuer, though, when he nodded home Radja Nainggolan’s cross at the back post.

Bayern were not finished, though, and Ribery‘s sublime deft chip restored his side’s five-goal lead before De Sanctis spilled Rafinha’s 20-yard shot and Shaqiri rounded the goalkeeper to slot home.

Benatia: Guardiola doesn't need my help to beat Roma

Being bought from the Stadio Olimpico this summer does not mean he will provide Bayern with additional assistance on the Serie A side’s weak points

Mehdi Benatia claims Pep Guardiola does not need insider information to guide Bayern Munich to Champions League victory over Roma on Tuesday.

The centre-back was signed for an undisclosed fee towards the end of the summer transfer window by the Bundesliga champions, having impressed a host of top clubs in his debut season at the Stadio Olimpico.

Despite having the advantage of knowing many of the Giallorossi’s tactics and players under Rudi Garcia’s wing, Benatia does not expect Guardiola to come crawling to him for assistance in grabbing an away win in midweek.

“I think that Guardiola has a strong team around him, he always perfectly puts the opponents under the microscope and analyses them,” the defender told the Bundesliga’s official website.

“I don’t think he needs my advice. But, if it should be the case, then I’m available any time.

“Somehow I suspected Bayern would draw Roma. The draw was on the day that I was officially presented at Bayern. I sat with my wife and my agent at the hotel and said ‘I am sure we’ll meet Roma’. And so it proved. I was very happy.

“It just makes me happy, because it will be an opportunity for me to see all my friends again. I still have a lot of friendships with the players such as Miralem Pjanic, Daniele De Rossi, Francesco Totti, and so on.”

Benatia might be delighted to be back in Rome but the home fans in Tuesday’s European clash are unlikely to share his positivity – Benatia left in acrimonious circumstances and club officials branded the defender as “poisonous” and a liar for forcing his way to Bayern in August.

“Roma fans may accompany me with whistles, but that does not bother me,” the Moroccan insisted. “I know that I always gave my best in Rome. For me, personally, it is a special game for sure.

“It will surely be very intense, especially because Roma have not played in the Champions League for many years. But we also have a lot of potential and plan to win there.”

Bayern top Group E after two games with two triumphs – ahead of Roma, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow - and Benatia is unsure who their main rival, but has his sights on last-16 qualification and, he hopes, his first Champions League title.

“It’s hard to say who our main group rival is because Manchester City are also very strong,” he added. “The English champions have a lot of experience at this level.

“Roma are really good, though, and is unpredictable. We know how hard it is to win there, but I’m optimistic.

“We are aiming for victory on June 6, 2015 in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. In the past five years, Bayern stood three times in the final. I really want to one day win this trophy.”

Robben: Roma play the best football in Italy

The Dutch winger has been impressed with the Giallorossi’s performances so far this season and believes Rudi Garcia’s men are Bayern’s “toughest rivals” in Group E

Arjen Robben says Bayern Munich will be going up against the best footballing side in Italy when they face Roma in a crucial Champions League clash at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday night.

The Giallorossi currently sit second in Serie A, one point behind reigning champions Juventus, whom Rudi Garcia’s men were beaten by a fortnight ago.

However, Roma were desperately unfortunate to lose in Turin and have also impressed in Europe, routing CSKA Moscow 5-1 on matchday one before earning a fully deserved draw at Manchester City last time out.

Consequently, Robben is expecting a fearsome battle when Bayern collide with the Giallorossi in the Italian capital.

“Roma are our toughest rivals at the moment,” the Netherlands international told reporters on Monday. “They’re playing the best football in Italy at the present time.”

Bayern strengthened their squad with the signing of Mehdi Benatia during the off-season and Robben says that the Roma man has fitted perfectly into Pep Guardiola’s side.

“He is a really good defender, exactly what we needed,” the winger enthused. “He will help us a lot.”

Meanwhile, Robben’s team-mate Thomas Muller is excited by the prospect of going up against Roma icon Francesco Totti, who became the oldest goalscorer in Champions League history when he netted in the 1-1 draw at City, aged 38.

“Totti is not just a legend in Rome,” the Germany international explained. “His loyalty to Roma is remarkable. I take my hat off to him for that.

“Nevertheless we want to win against him. We want to reach the knockout stage as fast as we can.

“And, as a forward, you relish playing a team who are unlikely to pull all 11 men back to their own penalty area!”

Roma sit second in Group E, one point behind Bayern, who are on a five-game winning streak in all competitions.

Guardiola: Totti is phenomenal

The Catalan amusingly noted nothing has changed since his playing days at the Stadio Olimpico, with Totti on the field and him on the bench

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has admitted that he cannot believe that former Roma team-mate Francesco Totti is still playing at the highest level.

The Catalan joined the Giallorossi in the summer of 2002 but left halfway through the season after failing to nail down a regular berth in the starting line-up and eventually hung up his boots for good four years later.

Totti, though, is still going and, at 38, became the oldest goalscorer in Champions League history when he netted in Roma’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City a fortnight ago.

Guardiola has now returned to the Italian capital as a coach and the former playmaker was quick to lavish praise on his old colleague.

“It’s good to be back,” the Bayern boss enthused. “Here in Rome I was a player just for six months. It was a short but great time.

“Of course, when I played for Roma I sat on the bench and Totti was on the field. And it’s still the same!

“Anyone still playing at the age of 38 has a great passion for this sport. That’s phenomenal.

“Normally at the age of 38, a professional player has earned enough money and quits. Totti still plays and that’s because he loves this game.”

Despite his enduring admiration for both Totti and Roma, Guardiola is desperate to lead Bayern to victory in the first part of their crucial double-header with the Serie A side.

The former Barca boss is well aware of the threat posed by Rudi Garcia’s men but he feels that the Bavarians, who have won five games on the bounce in all competitions, are playing better now than they were at this point last season.

“We have a great opportunity here,” Guardiola argued. “If we win both matches against Roma, we will reach the knockout stage.

“But if we do not play well, we will not win. Roma are a good team and they have many fast players.

“But, at the moment, are playing better than we were at the same stage last year.”

Bayern top Group E with six points, two clear of second-placed Roma.

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