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Bayern head to AEK buoyed by ‘liberating’ victory

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Lewandowski netted twice at the weekend to end a five-game winless streak © AFP/File / John MACDOUGALL

BERLIN, Germany, Oct 22Bayern Munich travel to Greece to face AEK Athens in the Champions League on Tuesday boosted by a Bundesliga win that “felt like a liberation” after their miserable run of form and a stormy week behind the scenes.

The pressure was mounting on the German champions and new coach Niko Kovac during a four-match winless run to the extent that senior club figures including Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness launched a stunning attack on the media.

But Saturday’s 3-1 win over Wolfsburg, in which Robert Lewandowski scored twice to end a five-game goal drought, is being hailed as a potential turning point for Bayern’s season.

“That felt like a liberation,” said centre-back Mats Hummels, while sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic was equally relieved, saying: “We have shown character in a difficult phase.”

The tension had been ratcheted up on Friday when Rummenigge, Hoeness and Salihamidzic slammed the press for “disgusting and respectless” reporting of Bayern’s poor performances in recent weeks, singling out German journalists to scold.

Saturday’s three points provided some calm at the Allianz Arena, but the pressure is still on Kovac heading to Athens, after a 1-1 home draw with Ajax last time out in Europe left Bayern’s Group E hopes in the balance.

Kovac was cautious about thoughts that Bayern will now rediscover the form which saw them romp to six straight German titles, describing the win at Wolfsburg as “just a small and first step in the right direction”.

But James Rodriguez, who scored a fantastic goal at the weekend, was more bullish, saying that Bayern are back in business.

“In a long season, these things always happen,” said James, referring to the recent shock defeats by Hertha Berlin and Borussia Moenchengladbach that has left them fourth in the Bundesliga table.

“There are bad games, there are good games. This bad phase has already gone. Now comes something good.”

Left-back David Alaba was Bayern’s only injury concern from Wolfsburg after the Austrian was taken off at half-time as a precautionary measure with a thigh strain.

Feel-good factor: Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Mats Hummels and Niklas Suele celebrate after Saturday’s win at Wolfsburg © AFP/File / John MACDOUGALL

The AEK match marks the start of a busy few weeks for Bayern who face midweek games from now up until the November international break — culminating with a crunch clash at Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on November 10.

“We will be playing every three days, but the rhythm is good and I hope we’ll go from win to win,” said Lewandowski.

After crashing to a 3-0 defeat at Ajax, then losing 3-2 at home to Benfica, AEK are chasing their first points in the group against Bayern, who have never lost a Champions League game in Greece with three wins and a draw.

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