Sven Ulreich wants revenge. Two months after their humiliation at the Parc des Princes, Bayern Munich and their goalkeeper have a chance to put things right when they face Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday evening.
‘It was a very depressing evening for us in Paris,’ Ulreich told kicker this week. ‘We want to show that our performance then was a one-off. We want revenge.’
The 3-0 defeat on the 27th September was more than just depressing, it was catastrophic.
Bayern Munich have looked rejuvenated under the management of Jupp Heynckes
Heynckes has turned Bayern’s fortunes around since replacing Carlo Ancelotti in September
Bayern’s catastrophic 3-0 loss away to PSG in September meant the end of Carlo Ancelotti
It would take a 4-0 Bayern Munich win on Tuesday to pip PSG to top spot in Group B
A day later Carlo Ancelotti was sacked, and Bayern, in their biggest crisis for half a decade, were forced to turn to treble-winning former coach Jupp Heynckes.
Two months later, Bayern are a team transformed. The side PSG face at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night will be an entirely different quantity to the one which rolled over in Paris in September.
Bayern have won 10 of their 11 games since Heynckes’ return, are six points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, and have almost retained their old swagger.
‘The atmosphere in the squad is amazing, we’re training really well, and have so much experience that nobody should underestimate us,’ Ulreich told kicker. ‘We are scared of nobody.’
Ulreich, who has been standing in for the injured Manuel Neuer since the beginning of the season, certainly looked scared back in September.
Paris Saint-Germain suffered a rare setback at the weekend as they lost 2-1 to Strasbourg
Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich (left) trains with Franck Ribery ahead of the PSG encounter
Heynckes, though, has worked wonders with his goalkeeper. Nervy and error-prone under Carlo Ancelotti, Ulreich now oozes confidence.
He’s not the only one. Where Ancelotti had struggled to keep the squad together, alienating the senior and German players and therefore exacerbating the problem of internal cliques, all those problems have disappeared under Heynckes.
With quiet but immovable authority, he has yanked the players’ socks up, pulled the squad together and started producing results.
Heynckes magic touch has been remarkable. It spoke volumes when the 72-year-old admitted this week that he has signed no formal contract with the club.
He is such a natural fit to the role of Bayern coach that he can simply walk onto the training ground one day and things just fall back into place.
The Bayern Munich squad train ahead of their sixth and final Champions League group fixture
Bayern would need to win 4-0 against PSG in order to advance to the last-16 as group winners
Bayern’s Brazilian defender Rafinha has a tattoo on his leg marking their 2013 triumph
That Bayern are still not the terrifying machine they have been is only natural. They remain a team in transition, and one which has been plagued by injuries.
Nine major players have spent time on the treatment table of late, with the likes of Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcantara still absent.
Heynckes, though, can at least be thankful that David Alaba and Thomas Muller are available again, while Franck Ribery returns to the bench. Muller is another player who has returned to confidence under Heynckes, playing brilliantly on his return to fitness last weekend.
On Tuesday, though, the main thing will be to defend well against PSG’s hurricane front three. Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe made mincemeat of Bayern in Paris, and they could do so again if the German side are not alert.
‘We want to show that we have stabilised defensively,’ said Bayern centre-back Niklas Sule. ‘The main thing is that we don’t get caught in one-on-one situations.’
PSG have some fun in their training session ahead of the Bayern showdown, with (left to right) Layvin Kurzawa, Neymar, Lucas Moura and Thiago Silva having a laugh
PSG’s Brazilian star Neymar laughs and jokes around during training on Monday
Avoid defensive capitulation, and Bayern, buoyed by their revival under Heynckes, will feel they have a chance. Going forward, they may not have Neymar or Mbappe but, as Heynckes put it, ‘our strikers aren’t so bad either’.
For Bayern to win the group, they would need to win 4-0, so Tuesday night is primarily about prestige.
While PSG are now favourites to win the Champions League, Bayern want to prove that they are still among the top three or four teams in Europe. The only way to do so is to take revenge on PSG.
‘It’s nothing personal against PSG, but we do want revenge, and we want to send a message to the rest of Europe,’ said Kingsley Coman.
‘We have to show ourselves and Europe that we can win big games and we are still title contenders.’
Bayern are playing for their right to sit at the high table of Champions League favourites. Forget revenge being a dish best served cold: Ulreich, Coman and their team mates want it right now.