Lahm worried about Shakhtar's Brazilians, not security

EXCLUSIVE: The World Cup-winning defender has admitted his concern about the Champions League trip to the Ukrainian champions

By Oliver Maywurm

Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm says he is worried about the Champions League last-16 first leg at Shakhtar Donetsk – but not because of the conflict in Ukraine.

The eastern city of Donetsk has been the scene of heavy fighting between the domestic army and separatist troops, which Ukraine claims are backed by neighbours Russia. 

As a result, Shakhtar’s home matches have been played in Lviv, in the west of Ukraine, though even their temporary hometown has been hit by sporadic outbreaks of violence.

Still, Lahm is not fearful of the security situation in Lviv and believes the only threat posed to Bayern is one on the pitch, particularly from the Brazilian contingent.

“The game has been moved to a more western region of the country and I believe many arrangements have been made so that nothing bad can happen,” the German, who is currently recovering from a fractured ankle, told Goal.

“I am not worried about playing there. We have to achieve a good result in Ukraine but I am not that worried about the game at home.

“Nevertheless we have to be alert because, of course, there are no weak opponents in the last 16 of the Champions League.

“Shakhtar have a good team and they have been working together for quite a long time now. Because of the amount of Brazilian players in the squad, they are especially strong technically. In addition they have good pace.

“In particular I think the away game will be very tough for us.”

Fellow defender Holger Badstuber, who is slowly being eased back into action after two nearly years out with a knee injury, agreed with his skipper that the European elite regulars will not be easy opponents.

“Everyone knows about Shakhtar, they have been a constant team in the Champions League for a long time,” the 25-year-old told Goal.

“So we have been warned and will be very well prepared. We will analyse them carefully.”

Bayern head into their Champions League last-16 first leg against Shakhtar on the back of an 8-0 mauling of Hamburg on Saturday.

Bayern always aim to win the Champions League – Bernat

The defender and his team-mate Medhi Benatia are hopeful of winning the European trophy but admit that it will be a difficult task

Bayern Munich defender Juan Bernat says he believes his side have what it takes to win the Champions League this year.

The Bundesliga leaders take on Shakhtar in the second round of the competition and are seen as one of the tournament favourites as they look to win a second European title in three years.

And the 21-year-old, who joined in summer from Valencia, says the Bavarian club are confident of reaching their goal.

“Bayern are always a team that aspires to lift that trophy, and of course we believe in it,” he told Uefa’s official website. “For sure, it won’t be easy because there are some very strong teams involved.

“It will be difficult, but we believe in ourselves and we’ll do everything to reach the final, especially since it is played in Germany, in Berlin. We want to win the title, but it’s not time to think about that now.”

Fellow Bayern defender Medhi Benatia admitted that the team have stumbled a bit since the turn of the year, having started 2015 with a 4-1 defeat and a 1-1 draw before going on to record 2-0 and 8-0 wins over Stuttgart and Hamburg in the league, and the former Roma player believes they have to keep working to improve.

“We have experienced a few more difficulties since coming back from the winter break. I don’t think we are perfect yet, just as Pep Guardiola said.

“There’s always room for hard work. We have a great coach and so many champions in our side, but that isn’t everything. Maybe one day, we can achieve perfection.

“Here at Bayern you have to win every Saturday and you have to win every Champions League match, because that’s the target.

“It doesn’t matter who the opposition is – we have to be focused, ready to play aggressively and give our opponents a tough game.”

Robben: We might underestimate Shakhtar

The Bayern Munich star feels his side cannot afford to underestimate their Ukrainian opponents when they meet in the Champions League second round

Arjen Robben is worried that Bayern Munich will underestimate Tuesday’s Champions League opponents Shakhtar.

The Bundesliga champions and current leaders take on Mircea Lucescu’s side in Ukraine on Tuesday in the second round of the continent’s premier competition.

And Robben insists his side must be wary of the threat posed by their opponents’ counter attacks.

“I have a feeling that some people might underestimate Shakhtar,” he told reporters. “But this is a very, very good team. They are very dangerous, have some very fast Brazilians and are very dangerous on the counter attack.

“We need to show our power in this game.”

The clash will be played in Lviv, over 600 miles from their own Donbass Arena, because of ongoing troubles in Ukraine, and Robben says it is impossible to ignore it.

“We’re football players, but we are only human,” he said. “Of course it’s not great what’s happening there.

“You can’t just go there and ignore it all.”

Thomas Muller echoed his team-mate’s thoughts on the “surreal situation” in the country.

“You know there is this terrible war out there, but you don’t really realise it because you don’t really know such a situation,” said the 25-year-old.

“It’s hard to grasp to be playing against a team that is based in a crisis area. It’s a surreal situation.”

Guardiola: Shakhtar are one of Europe's best

The Bayern boss remembers the tough challenge the Ukraine giants posed his Barcelona side and says Xabi Alonso could be fit to play

Pep Guardiola believes Mircea Lucescu has turned Shakhtar Donetsk into one of Europe’s very best teams as he prepares his Bayern Munich side to face the Ukrainian side.

Shakhtar, who have won the league title in each of the last five years, impressed in the group stages of the Champions League this term and boast the tournament’s top scorer in Luiz Adriano.

Guardiola, who faced the 2009 Uefa Cup winners a number of times as head coach of Barcelona, admits the vastly experienced Lucescu has formed a formidable side in recent years.

“I respect Shakhtar and their coach Mircea Lucescu very much,” he told reporters ahead of Bayern’s clash with Shakhtar in Lviv.

“He is a very smart coach who has created one of the best teams in Europe. I played against Shakhtar five times with Barcelona and although we had a really amazing squad it was always so difficult. You may remember the Uefa Super Cup match when we scored only in extra-time. Once, they defeated us at home in the 2008-09 Champions League.”

Fitness doubts emerged over Xabi Alonso after he was forced to miss the 8-0 hammering of Hamburg at the weekend, and Guardiola says he will wait until the last moment before making a decision on whether to play the Spaniard.

“Xabi Alonso trained well yesterday and today but his fitness is still open to question. We’ll make a decision tomorrow,” he said.

Lucescu: Shakhtar's Brazilians want revenge on Bayern

The veteran coach says a number of his star players want to set the record straight in the Champions League after their nation’s World Cup humiliation at the hands of Germany

Shakhtar Donetsk boss Mircea Lucescu says his side’s Brazilian stars want to avenge the World Cup thrashing by Germany when they take on Bayern Munich.

The host nation were humiliated in the semi-finals of last summer’s tournament by the eventual winners, who triumphed 7-1 en route to lifting the trophy.

Bayern stars Thomas Muller, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Bastian Schweinsteiger all started that victory against Brazil, and Lucescu – who boasts Brazilians including Douglas Costa, Alex Teixeira and Luiz Adriano in his side – says a win for Shakhtar would go some way to laying the World Cup ghosts to rest.

“We have 13 Brazilians who dream of revenge against Bayern’s German players for their national side’s World Cup defeat,” Lucescu told a press conference.

“We will be heroes if we beat them and qualify for the next stage.”

Shakhtar skipper Darijo Srna insists his team-mates will not be overawed at the prospect of facing Pep Guardiola’s charges this week.

“It’s great that we’ll play in Lviv against one of the best teams in the world. We are not afraid,” he said.

“We know a lot about Bayern but I think every football fan in the word knows this team very well. Of course, they are favourites but anything can happen in football.

“We are positive about the upcoming game. We hope to get a good result for our club and for our fans who are in a difficult situation in Eastern Ukraine. This is additional motivation for us.”