Munich, Germany, Oct 1 – Bayern Munich host Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday with Niko Kovac needing to fix a leaking defence and lack of finishing after yielding top spot in the Bundesliga.
The clash at Munich’s Allianz Arena could well decide Group E after Bayern claimed a 2-0 win at Benfica in the opening round a fortnight ago while Ajax won 3-0 at Greek side AEK.
Dauntingly for Ajax, Bayern have won the last 12 matches at home in the Champions League group stages.
However, the five-time European champions finished the weekend second in the German league after crashing to a shock 2-0 defeat at Hertha Berlin on Friday after being outplayed in the capital.
“It is an important game against Ajax. A win would make things easier for us going into our next four games,” said Bayern head coach Kovac.
“Many people said we wouldn’t lose a game (in the Bundesliga) this season, but now it has happened in no time at all.”
Ajax had a tough time getting to Munich on Monday as a power failure at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport delayed their departure by two hours, but they will face a Bayern side eager to make amends.
Uncharacteristically for the Munich giants, they conceded a late equaliser in a 1-1 league draw with Augsburg last Tuesday, which was followed by the defeat in Berlin.
But veteran winger Arjen Robben remains unfazed.
“I think we have to show a good response, it’s nice that we get the chance so soon,” said Robben on Monday.
“Last week we were seen as unbeatable, now things have flipped 180 degrees.
“I’ve been here too long to join in talk like that.
“I’m looking forward to the game and it’s something special to play against a Dutch team, especially Ajax,” added the former Netherlands captain.
However, Kovac will have been troubled by the ease with which Pal Dardai’s Hertha unpicked the lock of the Bayern defence.
He will seek a tighter performance against Ajax, who are second in the Dutch league after a 2-0 win at Fortuna Sittard on Saturday.
Ajax coach Erik ten Hag will have taken note of how Bayern’s defence was shaken in the first half by Berlin.
Jerome Boateng needlessly gave away a penalty by fouling Salomon Kalou and Vedad Ibisevic converted for the opening goal.
Niklas Suele, Bayern’s other centre-back, was out of position when Hertha’s Ondrej Duda, the league’s current top-scorer with five goals in six games, smashed home a close-range cross.
Bayern’s star-studded attack also has a point to prove against Ajax. Arjen Robben’s goal in the draw with Augsburg is all they have to show for 40 shots on goal in their last two games.
Even the likes of James Rodriguez, Franck Ribery, Robben and Robert Lewandowski could not breach Berlin’s defence despite 25 shots.
“Augsburg and also Hertha didn’t have many chances, but they created goals,” said Robben, 34.
“We had far more corners and chances than our opponents, that’s football sometimes, but there is no need to talk about a crisis.
“We will put in a good performance as a reaction and start a new run of results.”
A win over Ajax would boost confidence before Saturday’s home league match against Borussia Moenchengladbach when they can aim to make up the one-point gap to Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Historically, there is nothing separating Bayern and Ajax, who have three wins each, plus two draws, in their previous eight meetings.