MUNICH, Germany: On the eve of Wednesday’s Champions League last 16, second leg against Arsenal, Bayern Munich’s star defender Dante has said the German giants have what it takes to be crowned European champions.
Bayern are bidding to reach their third Champions League final in four years when they face the Gunners at Munich’s Allianz Arena with a 3-1 lead from the first leg and a quarter-final place at stake.
Still in only his first season at Bayern since switching from Moenchengladbach last July, Dante – full name Dante Bonfim Costa Santos – has been one of the Bundesliga’s stand-out performers this season.
The imposing centre-back has anchored the Munich defence with his confidence on the ball, strength in the air and calm under pressure.
Since his arrival, Bayern have conceded just 10 goals in their 25 matches so far this season.
Bayern last won silverware in May 2010 but with a 20-point lead in the Bundesliga the current squad want titles and are still in the running to become the first German club to win the league, cup and Champions League treble.
The Gunners of Arsenal come to Munich hunting goals to overturn Bayern’s significant first-leg advantage but as favourites to go into Friday’s quarter-finals draw, Dante says Munich can go all the way to the final.
“I believe it does,” he told AFP when asked if Bayern has what it takes to win the Champions League final at London’s Wembley stadium on May 25.
“Last year, this team almost did it. We are very hungry for titles and we are working very hard to achieve them. It is not easy, of course, but we are striving for it.”
Dante sat out Saturday’s 3-2 win over Fortuna Duesseldorf when Bayern twice came from behind to finish the weekend 20 points clear in the Bundesliga and could win the title as early as April 6 at Eintracht Frankfurt.
“The season is not over yet,” said Dante, with Bayern showing no signs of releasing their iron grip on the German league.
“Of course, until now it has been great. In the Bundesliga we have a very good advantage and depending on other results we could win it all in three more games.
“However, we also want to win the German Cup and go as far as possible in the Champions League.”
Dante’s performances for Bayern earned him a Brazil call up and first appearance against England at Wembley in last month’s 2-1 defeat and has been included in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad for the upcoming friendlies against Russia and Italy.
He also wants to be in the squad when Brazil host the 2014 World Cup and despite his relaxed on-field persona – he has taught Bastian Schweinsteiger the Arrocha dance from his home state of Bahia after scoring goals – he is fiercly determined.
“When a team like Bayern comes calling, you just have to accept it,” said the 29-year-old. “It is one of the best clubs in the world which is always fighting for championships and this is something I can relate to.
“I want to win titles, do not like to lose and the Bayern’s mentality fits perfect to mine. The World Cup in Brazil would be a dream to play in my home country. Brazil has great players and the fight for a spot will be very difficult.
“However, if I continue to do a good job here at Bayern and play well in the national team, then I will have a good chance to be part of the World Cup.”
Ex-Barcelona trainer Pep Guardiola takes over as Bayern coach on July 1 and the team are hoping to bring down the curtain on Jupp Heynckes’s three years with titles – and then Dante would teach Heynckes the steps to the Arrocha.
“Heynckes is a great coach and it is a pleasure for me to work with him,” said Dante. “If we win these titles, for sure we will celebrate. I hope he can come along and dance with us.” -AFP
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