Soccer

Bayern deals with tax case ahead of Barcelona semi

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MUNICH (AP)

At a time when Bayern Munich should be thinking about whether Lionel Messi is healthy enough to play in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday night, the German champion faces questions about a government investigation of club president Uli Hoeness for suspected tax evasion.

The newsmagazine Focus - whose publisher is a member of Bayern's board - reported last weekend that Hoeness is under investigation.

Hoeness, who owns a sausage factory, told the magazine he reported himself to tax authorities about a private bank account in Switzerland, a move that could mitigate his situation.

''That's, above all, a private matter of the president,'' Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said after his team won 6-1 in Hannover on Saturday. ''My team does not get affected by anything.''

Bayern clinched the Bundesliga title with six games to spare on April 6, the earliest clinching in league history.

The club announced Jan. 16 that Heynckes will be replaced this summer by former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Messi, the four-time world player of the year, arrived with the Blaugrana on Monday but still has not been cleared by doctors to play. He

''Clearly, Barcelona is stronger when Messi plays,'' Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said. ''But we have players who can hurt Barcelona.''

Messi injured his right hamstring on April 2 and has missed three Spanish league games while entering as 62nd-minute substitute against Paris Saint-Germain on April 10 and sparking his team to advance from the quarterfinal.

Heynckes has described Messi as a ''phenomenon'' and ''extraterrestrial.''

''But Barcelona is more than Messi, they have so many great players,'' Heynckes said. ''Barcelona has dominated European football in the past few years, but I have concept how to play and I am confident we can succeed.''

Messi has 57 goals in 46 games this season after scoring a world club record 73 last season.

''Messi is the best player in the world. He is very important for us, he can make the difference,'' Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. ''We'll see the best Messi from the start. He guarantees the stability of the team.''

Bayern will be without suspended forward Mario Mandzukic. His backup, Mario Gomez, has scored five goals this week - two in Hannover in a league match and three in the 6-1 win over Wolfsburg in the German Cup semifinals.

Heynckes has not ruled out using veteran Claudio Pizarro - either with or instead of Gomez.

''I have the fortune that I have two more great strikers. Gomez has been the best German-born striker for the past few years and Claudio is the best foreign striker of the Bundesliga,'' Heynckes said.

Long-term injuries have ruled out Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber, while Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova will be missing defender Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano.

His options include shifting Adriano over to the center of the defense, using young defender Marc Bartra, or even turning to veteran Eric Abidal after he played Saturday against Levante in his first start since a liver transplant on April 10 last year.

Bayern and Barcelona are both seeking their fifth Champions League title. Bayern is in its third semifinal in four seasons, Barcelona is in the last four for a record sixth consecutive appearance.

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