Created on 24-03-2008 at 00:00 AM
Ottmar Hitzfeld rewarded his players for beating Leverkusen by cancelling training on Easter Sunday and Monday, potentially the last time the Bayern boss will feel able to hand his men two free days in a row this term. Should Munich make it to the UEFA Cup final, the Bundesliga leaders will play twice a week from now until the end of the campaign.
However, this week is an exception, as Bayern are not due in Nuremberg until Saturday. Even so, there will be no additional rest for almost half the first-team squad, as eleven Bayern stars have been called up to represent their countries in a round of international fixtures to be played in North Africa and Europe.
Euro 2008 warm-ups
The matches may only be friendlies, but they are more significant than usual for eight Munich stars, as they offer a final chance to impress before the naming of squads for this summer’s Euro 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
As normal, Germany accounts for the single biggest Bayern contingent. Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski and Marcell Jansen have been called up by coach Joachim Löw to meet Euro co-hosts Switzerland in Basel.
Prestige at stake
Considerable pride is at stake when Franck Ribéry and his France team-mates take on England in Paris, although Willy Sagnol (neck) misses out with injury. World Cup holders Italy and Luca Toni travel to Elche in Alicante province for an equally prestige-laden meeting with Spain. Minsk is the destination for Hamit Altintop and Turkey in a run-out against Belarus.
Belgium meet Morocco in Brussels, but the home team failed to make it to Euro 2008, so Daniel van Buyten and his men will have their thoughts trained on the forthcoming qualifying contest for the next World Cup. Martin Demichelis and Argentina also face North African opposition, as the Gauchos travel to Cairo for a meeting with freshly-crowned continental champions Egypt.
No injuries, please
World Cup qualifying is already underway in South America, and the Argentines will be using the midweek fixture as preparation for their next two competitive matches in June, which include a clash with arch-rivals Brazil. The Seleçao are also in action on Wednesday, when captain Lucio leads out his men against Euro hopefuls Sweden in London.
Bayern’s current international stars are due back in Munich on Thursday, where the coaching staff will be waiting anxiously for news of any injuries. “The most important thing is that we get the players back in good health,“ commented head coach Hitzfeld.