BERLIN (Reuters) - Bayern Munich reached the Champions League knockout stage with two games to spare and a record-equaling win but last season’s treble winners know they will need to shake off their recent sleepy starts to repeat the success.
The Bavarians took a long time to get going against Viktoria Plzen in their 1-0 win on Tuesday and had to wait for more than an hour for Mario Mandzukic’s winner against a team they had crushed 5-0 in Munich last month.
Bayern, who became the first German team to win the treble last season, are top of their Champions League Group D with four wins from four games. Manchester City are second on nine with CSKA Moscow in third place on three points.
Their win in Plzen meant Bayern posted their best group result after four matches with 12 points and 12 goals scored and just one conceded.
Bayern also equaled Barcelona’s record of nine straight wins in the competition but narrow victories in the Bundesliga in the past few weeks and Tuesday’s performance have rung alarm bells.
“We need to quickly make sure we do not oversleep in the opening stages of games as we have been doing in the last few weeks,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said.
“We keep letting our opponents believe they can get something out of the matches. That cannot happen because this is the Champions League.”
Bayern’s narrow lead was tested a few times by the battling Czechs, who could have also snatched an unexpected equalizer late in the game.
“We have to act much better in the opening 15-20 minutes,” said Lahm.
The Bavarians have been plagued by injuries recently, but with players gradually returning to fitness they should become stronger.
Javi Martinez and Mario Goetze are back to full fitness while Arjen Robben should join them this week. Thiago Alcantara and Xherdan Shaqiri will also be returning later this month or early December while Holger Badstuber is also working on his comeback after a serious injury last season.
“If you win four straight matches and have 12 points then there is not much negative to be said but obviously we need to improve,” said Thomas Mueller.
“We did not cover ourselves in glory but we won and that is what is important. We made far too many mistakes,” said Mueller.
For coach Pep Guardiola, in his first season in charge, it was a record-equaling win but the Spaniard said he wanted two more in the group.
”I am delighted that we have this record of nine straight victories, said the coach of Bayern, who can also set a league record this week with their 37th consecutive game without defeat.
“We want to win our group and that means winning in Moscow and in Manchester City,” said Guardiola.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann. Editing by Patrick Johnston