Munich - With an eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to rivals Borussia Dortmund, FC Bayern Munich’s focus now turns to the European stage, as they host BATE Borisov in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening (kick-off 20:45 CET).

The Reds have already sealed their passage to the knockout phase after a 1-1 draw at Valencia CF a fortnight ago, but this game is by no means a dead rubber. If they can equal or better the Spanish side’s result against LOSC Lille in Group F’s other game, Bayern will qualify as group winners and, in theory at least, leave themselves with a potentially easier opponent in the last 16. And that, for midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is “massively important.”

Plenty still to play for


Given Bayern's form at the Allianz Arena, a home game to end the group stage should be a straighforward enough task for last season’s runners-up. Their previous European outing on home turf produced a 6-1 hammering of Lille, a team who themselves then went on beat Borisov on Matchday 5. Still, Bayern will do well not to forget the events of the first game, in Belarus in October. Despite dominating their opponents in Minsk, Jupp Heynckes’ side fell to a 3-1 defeat - one of only two in all competitions so far this season.

“It was a warning to us all,” admits Schweinsteiger. “BATE aren’t a team you can just turn up against and win 5-0. They almost got a draw in Valencia and they shouldn’t be underestimated.” Borisov are now out of the competition, but they can still prolong their European adventure by qualifying for the UEFA Europa League, and certainly won’t be lacking in motivation when they take to the field in Munich.

Luxury of choice for Heynckes


On Matchday 6 last season, Bayern were on the wrong end of a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City, but they already had qualification and top spot wrapped up and sent out an understrength side in the Etihad Arena. This time around, not only is there much still riding on the game for them, the squad is also much improved, meaning Heynckes can still ring the changes and field an extremely competitive eleven to try and secure the right result.

Luis Gustavo has made way in the team for Javi Martinez in recent weeks, but remains one of the Bundesliga’s most consistent midfielders and could well feature, as could Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, who has impressed this season. And up front, should the league’s joint-top scorer Mario Mandzukic be given a rest, either Mario Gomez, scorer of 12 goals in this competition last season, or Claudio Pizarro, who bagged a treble against Lille, are in line to step in - handy alternatives indeed for Heynckes.

Probable line-ups:

Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba - Gustavo, Schweinsteiger - Shaqiri, Kroos, Ribery - Pizarro

BATE: Gorbunov - Polyakov, Radkov, Simic, Bordachev - Likhtarovich, Olekhnovich, A. Volodko, Bressan, Hleb - Rodionov

Bernie Reeves