Bayern hosts Roma in Champions League opener
Bayern Munich and Roma are looking for redemption in their Champions League opener, hoping to rebound from mixed starts in their domestic campaigns.
Bayern coach Louis van Gaal might reshuffle the lineup of last season's Champions League runner-up for Wednesday's match against Roma after a relatively poor start in the Bundesliga, where the title holders have one win, one draw and one loss after three games.
Roma is seeking to recover from a 5-1 league loss. The Italian team has only one point after two rounds of the Italian season.
Bayern went into the Bundesliga season so confident of retaining its title that it was the only club that didn't sign any new players. But its record so far includes a loss at promoted Kaiserslautern and last weekend's 0-0 draw at home to Werder Bremen.
"Many players are still not 100 percent fit. I may have to give some other players their chance," Van Gaal said, without elaborating.
Bayern will be without Franck Ribery, who is sitting out the last of his three-match suspension for being sent off in last season's semifinal.
"I am very disappointed that I can't play, but I hope that we'll win because a victory in the opening match in any competition is important," Ribery said.
Thomas Mueller, a revelation for Germany at the World Cup, said the team has known for a long time that Ribery would be missing and is prepared to make up for his absence.
"The guys from the bench are all hot to play," Mueller said.
Hamit Altintop could play for Ribery. Altintop played in his position in the 2-0 loss to Inter Milan in the Champions League final. Bayern also will be without another winger, Arjen Robben, who is nursing a long-term hamstring injury.
"We proved last season that we know how to compensate for the absences of Ribery and Robben," defender Holger Badstuber said.
Captain Philipp Lahm said his team wants to dominate Group E, which also includes Cluj and FC Basel, while midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger says Wednesday's match is important if they are to better last season and win the title.
"We are not in top condition but we have to win (Wednesday), no matter how," Schweinsteiger said.
Despite the ambitious statements by his players, Van Gaal said Bayern is not the team to beat.
"There is only one favorite and that's Barcelona, and then Chelsea," Van Gaal said.
Roma lost 5-1 at Cagliari at the weekend, leaving the team in the bottom three with one point after opening the season with a 0-0 draw at home to Cesena.
Off the field, the search is on for new owners, but there is optimism the team could again compete for the title following the arrival of Adriano and Marco Borriello.
"We have a point less than at this stage last year," captain Francesco Totti said. "Of course it was a bad loss, but I am not worried. We are only at the start and will come good soon.
"The season is very tight and the players aren't yet ready to play two matches a week, but they will have to get used to it."
Rodrigo Taddei is being monitored ahead of the match after injuring his right calf.
In the other group match, Cluj hosts Basel in Romania only two days after coach Sorin Cartu was appointed.
Cartu replaced Andrea Mandorlini, who paid the price for a poor start to the season that has left Cluj in the bottom half of the standings after seven rounds.
Both clubs return to the elite stage after finishing last in their group two seasons ago. Cluj received direct entry this time, while Basel came through two rounds of qualifying, against Hungary's Debrecen and Sheriff of Moldova.
Basel, coached by former Bayern player Thorsten Fink, has made a steady start to its domestic season, sitting third of 10 teams with Alex Frei leading the Swiss league scoring chart with eight goals. It also has in-form 18-year-old Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored his first international goal last week - a long-range strike in Switzerland's 3-1 loss at home to England.