Beckenbauer sorry for Barca dirty tricks jibe
Franz Beckenbauer has been forced to apologise to Barcelona after claiming that the Spanish club would "provoke and use every trick possible" in an effort to overhaul a 4-0 first-leg deficit against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final tonight.
Bayern, the recently-crowned Bundesliga champions, will confirm their place in this month's Champions League final at Wembley if they avoid an unprecedented second-leg collapse in the Nou Camp. But despite the size of Bayern's lead, Beckenbauer had claimed that Barcelona would attempt to unnerve the Germans with gamesmanship and dirty tricks in a desperate attempt to overcome Jupp Heynckes's team.
Beckenbauer, the former Bayern and Germany captain and now president of the club, prompted controversy last month when he dismissed Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as a "pensioner" following Bayern's quarter-final victory against the Italian champions. But after predicting that Barcelona would turn to dark arts in the Nou Camp, the 67-year-old last night issued an apology on his personal website in order to avoid further embarrassment for Bayern.
"I'm sorry if my comments were wrongly interpreted," Beckenbauer said while claiming that all he had intended to say was that Barcelona would be putting pressure on Bayern "but not by any illegal means". He added: "I meant to say that the two teams would do everything to make it to the final. Nothing more than that. I'm convinced that fair-play will prevail."
With Lionel Messi expected to be fit for Barcelona after struggling to overcome a hamstring injury during the first leg at the Allianz Arena, the home side are priced as short as 9/1 with some bookmakers to pull off the biggest second-leg comeback in Champions League history. But after suffering the agony of losing last season's final to Chelsea on home turf in the Allianz Arena, Bayern coach Heynckes insists that his team have developed the mental toughness to kill off Barcelona's hopes by scoring in the Nou Camp.
"When you experience a final like we did against Chelsea, then you understand all the consequences," Heynckes said. "Some clubs give up, but everyone at Bayern reacted in a very positive way. We made changes, signed good players, modified some things, and strengthened the team spirit.
"We have our philosophy on football and this season we have proved that Bayern is a great team playing top-quality football. We have our culture and we are capable of scoring goals at the Camp Nou. We can't think too much about the first-leg result. After the match, we can evaluate things, but I cannot say which team is better.
"Barcelona have played at such a high level for so many years, but Bayern want to prove that the match in Munich wasn't a one-off. It will be tough because Barcelona are capable of doing great things, we know that. We have played very well in this season's Champions League. If we score one or two goals we know it'll be even tougher for Barcelona. If we have the chance to attack, we will."
Bayern go into the game with Philipp Lahm, Javi Martinez, Dante, Luis Gustavo and Mario Gomez all one booking away from a suspension which would rule them out of the final, should they progress to Wembley.
Despite the task facing his team, Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova claimed it was still possible to reach the final.
"We believe we can fight back, it's our obligation and we're convinced it's possible," Vilanova said. "We know that it will be very difficult, but we are Barca and we can never give up on a tie especially when we have 90 minutes of play at home." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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