Eleven years later

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Eleven seasons after the last time they met in the Champions League final, Valencia CF and FC Bayern Muenchen match up, once again, to open Group F on Wednesday. Eleven years ago, Bayern hoisted the trophy in a thrilling encounter that was ultimately decided on penalties. That was the last time, however, that die Roten would come out on the winning side of things in this most storied competition.

Despite the last two recent failures, Bayern has a pretty damn good European record: Four-time winners of the Champions League (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001) and five-time runners up (1982, 1987, 1999, 2010, 2012); adding a Cup Winner's Cup (1967), a UEFA Cup (1996), and two Intercontinental Cups (1976, 2001) to their non-domestic trophies. And domestically they are without parallel: German champions 22 times, Pokal winners 15 times, Ligapokal winners six times, and Supercup winners five times. They're not called Rekordmeister for nothing!

Bayern Munich probable starting XI: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Badstuber - Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Mueller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic

Although both Robben and Ribery were scratched against Mainz on Saturday, they have both returned to training. However, Ribery is back to almost-full fitness while Robben is still doubtful for this match. If the Dutchman is fit, he'll start; dropping Kroos to the bench and putting Mueller behind Mandzukic.

Holger Badstuber will once again start on the left wing, as Bayern is still waiting for the returns of Diego Contento and David Alaba. Starting all three matches there this term, he's getting more comfortable with the position, even garnering an assist against Mainz. It gives me the willies when I see him so far forward, and I have to constantly remind myself that he's not playing centre back.

You see, once again, that I have tipped Javi Martinez to start, partnering Bastian in the holding midfield role. It's only a matter of time, and eventually I will be right! It would be the first Champions League match of his career, and perhaps since we are facing a Spanish side that he's familiar with, he'll get the nod over Luis Gustavo. I really enjoyed his 15 minutes against Mainz. He was definitely the game-changer there when Bayern had their backs against the wall.

Valencia probable starting XI: Diego Alves - Pereira, Rami, Ruiz, Cissokho - Parejo, Costa - Feghouli, Jonas, Viera - Soldado

Back in 2001, Mauricio Pellegrino's penalty shot was saved by Olli Kahn. He is now the Valencia coach. And that coach has some midfield problems as he's missing Gago, Albelda, Canales and Banega.

Los Che also play in a similar 4-2-3-1 formation, with especially aggressive wing backs in new signing Cissohko and Pereira. Joao Pereira was rested over the weekend against Celta Vigo, while Aly Cissohko scored in the 50th minute.

The time has come, not to forget, but to vanquish May 19th, 2012. And while I know a lot of Bayern supporters are nervous, I can't help but be irrationally optimistic. If we made the final last year with our ghost of a squad?! I can't help but think what this season will bring. Is anyone else dreaming of Wembley?

Auf gehts, Bayern!

You should follow Susie on Twitter @fussballsusie

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