New Delhi: For India, a chance to play Bayern Munich is a rare privilege and opportunity, both for the team and the fans. However, just what an exhibition tie against the Indian national team - ranked 162nd in the world - means to the European powerhouses is another matter. It is unlikely to be a demanding game for a team with a host of international stars more at home playing in the Champions League, but the Germans, gracious and professional, mean business.
“We’ve come here to win,” stated captain Philip Lahm. “We want to play attractive football and show what top European club football is all about. Hopefully we can do that in tomorrow’s game.”
It is a sentiment echoed by coach Jupp Heynckes, who is looking to get more match practice for his players ahead of the resumption of the Bundesliga next week. The team has already had a week-long training camp in Doha, and this is their final stop-over before returning to Munich.
“We’ve come here from Qatar, where we were preparing for the second leg of the Bundesliga,” said Heynckes. “Everyone is fit and raring to go. We’re looking forward to testing the players.”
“We have come to play a serious match. We are among the top five sides in Europe and we want to show that on the field. I think it will be a good and entertaining match and we hope that people get to know more about Bayern Munich.”
That is likely to be the case when the most successful club in Germany plays India at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday, in what will also be a farewell match for Indian hero Bhaichung Bhutia. Not surprisingly, the former Indian skipper’s name is the only thing the Bayern players are familiar with when it comes to Indian football.
“Honestly, I don't know much about Indian football,” admitted Lahm, the youngest player to captain Germany in a World Cup. “If we know anything about Indian sports, it is cricket. If we do know anything about Indian football, then it was only of Bhaichung Bhutia playing for some world XI team in charity matches over the years.”
Bayern are currently top of the domestic league, having scored 43 goals and conceded only 10 in 17 games so far. They have also been in impressive form in the Champions League, a tournament they are especially keen on, with the final set to take place at the Allianz Arena – their home ground – this year.
“We have been playing at a high European standard this season,” said Heynckes. “That is something we want to keep up. We have ambitions, but certainly Barcelona are the best side in Europe presently and they are the team to beat. We want to go as far as possible.”
Their aims highlight the gulf between Bayern and the Indian side, who cannot realistically hope to pose a challenge on the field, but Lahm was still reluctant to make predictions.
“It’ll be a real test for us. The start of the Bundesliga is just over a week away. It’s also our first visit to India and our first contact with Indian football. It’ll be interesting to see what Indian football is all about. It’s a learning process and we are looking forward to the match.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger will definitely be keen to get on the pitch, coming back after a lengthy lay-off following a collarbone injury in November, and the 27-year-old appeared confident.
“There is no problem now and I have recovered from my shoulder injury,” said the midfielder, before quipping, “If Bhaichung does not go after my shoulder, I should be fine.”
Bhaichung was equally quick to respond. “If and when the score reaches 3-0, that’s the time we’ll start targeting Schweinsteiger’s shoulder!”
Against the four-time European champions though, even that may not be enough.