Turbulent build-up for Bayern in Cup

DOHA • Bayern Munich jetted off to the Club World Cup on Saturday after preserving their seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga by beating Hertha Berlin.

The German champions are the big favourites to reach Thursday's final and seal a record sixth title in nine months even though they got off to a rocky start, with their take-off from Berlin on a direct flight to Qatar delayed by seven hours.

They were supposed to leave at 11.15pm local time on Friday but heavy snow in the German capital meant the de-icing took longer than expected. Air traffic control also refused to clear the plane for flying due to a ban on flights from midnight to 7am, forcing the team to remain overnight at Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Their flight eventually took off several minutes before 7am with a stopover in Munich, although Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was still irate at how shoddily the European champions were treated.

"We had the impression that the competent authorities didn't care about us," he told Bild. "Those in charge (at the airport) don't have an inkling of what they've done to our team."

Still, their travel woes are unlikely to derail their bid to cap a year in which they won their sixth European Cup and eighth consecutive Bundesliga title.

Bayern travelled without the injured Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez but coach Hansi Flick should be able to overcome today's opponents Al Ahly without the pair.

Thomas Muller aims to win his and the club's second Club World Cup, saying: "As a European team, we are certainly favourites. We want to underline that and win the trophy."

Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane has conceded the odds are stacked against the Egyptian champions, the first African side since 2013 to reach the semi-finals here, saying "just about everybody expects Bayern to win". His side do have one small advantage though.

The 21,282-capacity Al Rayyan Stadium will be 30 per cent full due to Covid-19 rules. There is a 300,000-strong Egyptian expatriate community in Qatar and unlike the other teams, whose fans cannot travel, Al Ahly can count on the sizeable "home" support.

Brazilian outfit Palmeiras and Mexico's Tigres squared off in the other semi-final yesterday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2021, with the headline 'Turbulent build-up for Bayern in Cup'. Subscribe