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June 27, 2017

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Bayern wary of overconfidence against BATE

MINSK, Belarus -- Shortly after Bayern Munich equaled its club record by starting the season with nine straight wins in all competitions, sporting director Matthias Sammer criticized the team for a lack of effort in the 2-0 victory at Werder Bremen.

"It wasn't good enough until we scored the opening goal, we have to be clear about that," Sammer said. "It's not always about judging the result."

Despite the critique, the Bundesliga club can beat that 1984-85 record on Tuesday against BATE Borisov in the Champions League.

Bayern left for Minsk — where BATE Borisov plays its European games — without the injured Arjen Robben, who is still laboring with muscle problems.

BATE surprised many by beating Lille 3-1 in the opening round. It was the six-time Belarusian champion's first Champions League group-stage win in 13 attempts.

"It'll be a difficult game," Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said at Monday's news conference. "This is an opponent that's very well organized, that has very good players and that won impressively in Lille."

Heynckes called on his players to produce the same soccer they have played from the start of the season.

"Then we'll have every likelihood of winning tomorrow," the 67-year-old coach said.

Both Lille and Valencia, which lost at Bayern 2-1, will be looking for their first points when they meet in Group F's other match.

Sammer's criticism is being taken as a timely check on rising euphoria following Bayern's blistering start to the season.

"What Matthias said pleased me very much," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said before boarding the flight to Minsk. "We shouldn't make the mistake of being lulled into complacency. And Matthias is one who recognizes this danger."

Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said Sammer and Heynckes spoke with the players "and we all know that we can do better."

Bayern's unrelenting drive is fueled by the trauma of finishing second in three competitions last season, losing out to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and German Cup final, but above all by the pain of that Champions League final loss to Chelsea on penalties in Bayern's stadium last May.

"There's a huge motivation to win the (Champions League) title," Toni Kroos told Kicker magazine on Monday. "Chelsea is dealt with, crossed off. You'll never forget it because there'll never be a better chance to win this title."

Kroos has been Bayern's outstanding player of the season so far as the midfielder finally starts living up to the promise which prompted the German powerhouse to sign him as a 16-year-old youngster in 2006.

"I simply tried to take things from last season, which was already very good, and to improve myself in certain areas," Kroos said. "I was fit going into the season and so you can expect such performances from me, as I expect them from myself."

Bayern has never played a team from Belarus before and Kroos said he was expecting an "uncomfortable game."

"There are hardly any games for Bayern where you say beforehand you'd be happy with a draw," Kroos said. "We're favorites and we want to win there. But I also don't know the team that well. Their 3-1 win in Lille was a declaration."

Mario Mandzukic will be expected to lead the line in attack in the absence of Germany striker Mario Gomez, who has yet to play this season after undergoing surgery on his left ankle on Aug. 7.

Gomez scored 12 Champions League goals last season, plus another in qualifying, but has been barely missed as Mandzukic has chipped in nine goals in Bayern's nine games so far.

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