Manuel Neuer on Tuesday set Bayern Munich the target of reaching the last four of the Champions League ahead of the Bundesliga giants’ opening group game against Red Star Belgrade.
Bayern, who kick off their Group B fixtures against the Serbian champions in Munich on Wednesday, were knocked out by eventual winners Liverpool in the round of 16 last year, and Germany goalkeeper Neuer says his side are hungry to bounce back from that elimination.
“We experienced how painful it was to get out so early. That elimination gave us a lot of motivation, we are hungry,” said Bayern captain Neuer. “We want to improve and go further than last season. We want at least to reach the semi-finals.”
Last year’s early elimination, which came following a goalless draw in England and a 3-1 second leg defeat at the Allianz Arena, put serious pressure on coach Niko Kovac, then in his first year as Bayern boss.
“Last year we had no luck in the draw. We lost to the future winners,” Kovac said Tuesday.
“New year, new matches, new opportunity then. I am convinced that we will go further than last year.”
Bayern were also eliminated by the future winners – Real Madrid – in the quarter-finals in 2017 and the semi-finals in 2018.
This year Bayern have been drawn in a group that they are favourites to win ahead of Wednesday’s opponents, Panathinaikos and last season’s beaten finalists Tottenham Hotspur.
Against Red Star, Kovac will be without two injured regulars, fullback David Alaba and midfielder Leon Goretzka.
The coach did not say whether he would start Philippe Coutinho or Thomas Mueller, who both featured in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig.