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Selection considerations

Hitzfeld puts faith in regular line-up

The tension which always envelops a football club during pre- and mid-season training phases can ultimately be explained by simple maths. The number of players - 24 at Bayern this term – exceeds the number of places available in the team, resulting in intense internal competition. “During breaks, every man entertains hopes of playing,” Ottmar Hitzfeld acknowledged. However, with the second half of the season little more than eight days away, the FCB coach has declared his faith in the side which emerged as the first-choice line-up last autumn. “The players who proved themselves in the first half of the campaign have grown together as a team,” he commented in Marbella.

The lack of wholesale changes was partly due to the brevity of the mid-season break, Hitzfeld explained. Pre-season training occupied a full six weeks, but the winter phase provided just half that time. “My main focus has to be on creating a functioning team which immediately slots into a rhythm,“ the General observed. There would unfortunately be few opportunities to test out other individuals from the squad: “You have to concentrate on the core of the team.“

Competition on the right

Only two positions appear to be the subject of question-marks: Willy Sagnol and Christian Lell are disputing the right-back slot, with Bastian Schweinsteiger, José Ernesto Sosa and Hamit Altintop contesting the berth on the right of midfield. Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni are certain starters up front. “Miro and Luca have built up a good understanding in the first half of term, so we’ll definitely start the second half with them,” Hitzfeld advised.

That means Lukas Podolski and Jan Schlaudraff will have to be content with the bench, at least for the first few weeks. Due to a stubborn bout of flu, Podolski “lost a few valuable days’ training,” Hitzfeld reported, calling on the Germany international to make up the deficit as quickly as possible. The same applied to new Brazilian signing Breno. “He needs to get used to the intensity of our training programme,” Hitzfeld said.

Eight days to go

In-session tests showed Breno’s pulse rate accelerating to high levels extremely rapidly. The 18-year-old “needs to work on his stamina,” the coach observed. The player himself agreed. “In Brazil, we only trained in the morning, but it’s twice a day here, and that’s a shock to the system,” he acknowledged in Marbella. “We won’t be in a position to pick Breno to begin with,” Hitzfeld explained.

However, Breno, Podolski and all the other stars are well aware that the last word has yet to be spoken regarding the starting line-up for the German Cup Round of 16 tie against Wuppertaler SV on 29 January. The players have eight days and two friendly matches to put forward a case for inclusion when the action starts again in earnest.