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Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Bayern ready to exorcise Allianz demons

Stephan Uersfeld, Germany Correspondent

Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes and his players are full of confidence ahead of their Champions League opener against to Valencia, which takes place exactly four months after the agonising final defeat to Chelsea on home soil.

• Blog: Eleven years later

The Blues' penalty shootout victory prevented Bayern from lifting their fifth European Cup and the German giants' misery was compounded by the loss occurring at their own Allianz Arena.

However, the Bavarians are now ready to put that disappointment behind them and are raring to go in this year's competition, with midfield Bastian Schweinsteiger - who missed the crucial spot-kick in May - saying: "Champions League, 8.45 [CET] kick off, that's special, not only for us players."

Captain Philipp Lahm also expressed his excitement for the start of this season's competition, and the Germany international is hoping he will finally get his hands on continental silverware at Wembley next May.

"It all starts from scratch. Our aim is to win the group," Lahm said. "We are among the favourites [to win the Champions League], we reinforced our squad and have reached the final twice over the past three years."

All eyes will be on €40 million signing Javi Martinez, who could make his full debut for Bayern, with coach Heynckes saying: "He could play, he improves with every day. He already is accepted by the other players, he is a character."

If Martinez starts, he will face a Valencia side, he still knows very well from his time at Athletic Bilbao and the Spain defender can't wait to make his Bayern bow.

"It is great, the first match is against them. I know some players from our national team. I am looking forward to meeting them," Martinez said.

Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino, who missed the deciding penalty as a player for Los Che when they lost to Bayern in the 2001 Champions League final , said Valencia's biggest mistake would be "to have too much respect" for their hosts.

"Football is a game where you make mistakes. Always. We must try and minimise them," Pellegrino said. "I hope we can be ourselves and play out our qualities."

Bayern might have a surprise in store for Valencia as Mario Mandzukic could make way for Claudio Pizarro. Veteran striker Pizarro has not started a competitive match since his return to Bayern from Bremen this summer but, according to Bild, the Peruvian is set to start.

Whoever starts the match on Wednesday, Bayern are already dreaming of greater things to come. Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: "We are longing for that title as we have lost two finals in three years. We should remain with our feet on the ground and not fly."

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