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Football: Bayern aren't Euro chokers, insists Lahm

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Captain Philipp Lahm has insisted Bayern Munich will not choke again in the Champions League at the Allianz Arena as they prepare for Tuesday's semi-final, first-leg at home to Barcelona.

The pain of last May's Champions League final defeat in Munich on penalties to Chelsea clearly still smarts. "Cruel," replied Lahm when asked for one word to sum up the moment Chelsea's Didier Drogba slotted home the winning spot-kick.

When a British journalist asked Lahm if he knew the English expression "chokers", the Bayern captain's reply left no doubt that the term was not in his vocabulary: "No, I don't know that one," he said with a smile.

Arsenal again proved Bayern are beatable in Munich with a 2-0 last-16 win in March as the Bavarians squeezed through on away goals - after their 3-1 win in London - before beating Juventus home and away in the quarter-finals.

Lahm insists Bayern have learnt the lessons from losing last year's final by sweeping aside all Bundesliga rivals, winning 26 of their 30 games to date, and they are now closing in on a third Champions League final in four years.

"It was a huge disappointment to lose the final at home, but we see we have learnt from that and come back much better, especially in this season's Champions League," said the Germany captain.

"We have just developed further and strengthened our squad over the summer.

"Everyone in the squad can come in and give a performance. I think that is what has helped us."

A key factor for this semi-final is whether Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi will start having laboured in recent weeks with a hamstring injury that saw him miss Saturday's 1-0 win against Levante in La Liga.

Despite struggling for fitness, Messi had a huge impact when he came off the bench to help his team draw with Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of their quarter-finals. That 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou took the Catalans through on away goals, and now Messi is expected to start against Bayern.

"Messi is the best player in the world, with him Barcelona play better and we saw that when he came on against PSG, you could see his involvement," said Lahm.

"When he's on, the standard goes up, but Barcelona aren't just about Messi.

"I don't really care who we face, they are all top players.

"We have to prove ourselves and show what we can do, we want to win here and go on the attack.

"We have the right types of players who can take on Barcelona and hurt them."

Coach Jupp Heynckes - who won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998 - said he knows how to prevent Messi and Barcelona wrecking Bayern's dreams of becoming the first German team to win the treble of European Cup and domestic league and cup.

"We have a plan, like we did when Juventus also played with a three-man midfield," said the Bayern coach, who will step down to be replaced by ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola in July.

"Barcelona have a different football philosophy and concept, but we will find a solution."

Lahm says Bayern have earned the right to be regarded as one of the top European teams and to challenge for titles for years to come.

"We want to reach the final and win it, which we didn't do last year," the full-back said.

"We're playing the likes of Arsenal, Juventus, these are all top teams. Juve will win the Italian league and we beat them twice.

"We've reached the final twice and the semis three times, this is the sort of development we want.

"It all helps to cope with a game like this. It will be a football feast, but we hope to be able to offer the same standard of football in the next few years."

ryj/as

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130422/football-bayern-arent-euro-chokers-insists-lahm