Manchester City closing the gap on 'outstanding' Bayern - Hamann

The Champions League winner, who played for both clubs during his career, insists that the sides are closer in quality than people believe ahead of Wednesday's encounter
By Rich Parry

Former Manchester City and Bayern Munich midfielder Didi Hamann insists the gulf in class between the two sides is not as big as some believe.

Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben were all on target as the Champions League holders easily dispatched on the Premier League runners-up in October.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be looking to avenge the home defeat, knowing a superior reversal in Munich will see them clinch top spot in Group D and Hamann, who holds both clubs close to his heart, feels there is now very little between the two sides.

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"I don't think the gap is as big as was shown in the first game," Hamann told Goal. "I think it will be a lot tighter in Munich this time.

"City were taught a bit of a lesson [at the Etihad Stadium]. They got themselves back into the game late on - scored a goal, hit the crossbar - but Bayern were in a different league."

Hamann, who clocked up 54 appearances for City, and over a century of games for Bayern during his career, believes the manner of their previous defeats will have hurt the Premier League side but feels they can use the tie to generate some momentum ahead of the knockout stages.

He continued: "City will want to give them a game to get some confidence back, because clearly the defeat to them last time affected them, in the way they lost.

"I think it was a game where everything went against City. Joe Hart made a mistake - they go 1-0 down - and if you need to change the game against Bayern Munich you know you're up against it.

"Bayern did it to Barcelona last year, they rip through teams. They are an outstanding side."

Since a poor performance against Bayern, Hart has only featured on five occasions for City. Pellegrini has brought him back from the cold predominantly for European matches, with Costel Pantilimon taking the gloves in Premier League.

The Chilean confirmed after their draw with Southampton that Hart would return to the side in Munich, but Hamann concedes that the Romanian is most likely to start in both competitions once the last-16 games are under way.

He added: "Once we're into the knock-out rounds I'll be surprised if the keeper who's playing in the Premier League isn't playing in the Champions League."

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Hamann knows the importance of a coach and team having full confidence in their keeper, having won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005.

Jerzy Dudek was Rafa Benitez’ number one, and rewarded the Spaniard with two crucial saves in their infamous penalty shoot-out win over AC Milan, and the German sees no reason why City cannot achieve success without Hart between the posts.

"Pantilimon hasn't done anything wrong, and is obviously very highly-regarded by the manager, and the team has a lot of confidence in him," he insisted.

"I don't see any reason why they can't win the Premier League and the Champions League with him in goal."

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