Favourites Bayern step up treble bid
MUNICH, April 3 (Reuters) - Treble-chasing Bayern Munich will have UEFA Cup talisman Lukas Podolski back fit and in form for their quarter-final first leg at home to dangerous Getafe on Thursday.
Bayern, four-times European champions and winners of the UEFA Cup in 1996, are the tournament heavyweights but the Bundesliga leaders are not alone in terms of quality and ambition.
The other ties will see fellow Germans Bayer Leverkusen, the 1988 UEFA Cup winners, take on Zenit St Petersburg, while Rangers host Sporting and Fiorentina are at home to PSV Eindhoven, who won the competition in 1978.
Podolski has played his best football of the season in the UEFA Cup, scoring five goals as Bayern have cruised through to the last eight.
He had been doubtful early in the week with an ankle injury but Bayern passed him fit late on Tuesday and he should be in confident mood after scoring his first Bundesliga goal of the season in the weekend's 1-1 draw against Nuremberg.
Bayern, who are also looking forward to a German Cup final, obviously have a superior pedigree to Getafe but a look back at recent history will give the Bavarians reason for caution.
Getafe are trying to repeat the heroics of Alaves, another modest Spanish team who reached the final of the UEFA Cup on their debut in European competition.
The unheralded Basque side disposed of two German opponents Hertha Berlin and Kaiserslautern on their way to the final in 2001, where they suffered a heart-breaking golden goal defeat at the hands of Liverpool.
Getafe, coached by Michael Laudrup, have already claimed victories against high-profile sides such as Tottenham Hotspur, Benfica and AEK Athens and they are already looking forward to a King's Cup final against Valencia.
Not yet clear of the threat of relegation, Getafe cannot afford to relax in the league after a 2-0 defeat at home to Osasuna and Laudrup is concerned by the demands put on his small squad.
'We wanted to get some points against Osasuna so that we could face up to this period in more relaxed mood, but it wasn't to be,' Laudrup said. 'The good thing though is that we won't need to motivate anyone for the Bayern match.'
If Bayern win the tie they could set up an all-German semi-final against Bayer Leverkusen, provided they come through against Zenit St Petersburg.
'We would rather have played the first leg away,' Bayer coach Michael Skibbe told reporters.
Looking at the other half of the draw, Fiorentina will have to recover from a 3-1 at rivals Udinese on Sunday. Top scorer Adrian Mutu was suspended but should be back for the Eindhoven game.
Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo played on Sunday despite having tonsillitis and is now a slight doubt for Thursday. Both Montolivo and defender Tomas Ujfalusi will miss the second leg if booked.
The winners of that tie will face Sporting, the beaten finalists in 2005, or Rangers, who should fear no one after knocking out Werder Bremen in the last round.