Created on 25-07-2008 at 00:00 AM
For Bayern as a club, Saturday's warm-up away to 1. FC Köln is simply the next pulse-check in pre-season, but when Lukas Podolski steps out in front of a capacity crowd at the RheinEnergie stadium, the Germany international will be returning to his former hometown stamping ground for the first time since switching to Munich in summer 2006.
"I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's game," declared Poldi on Friday. The 23-year-old was still recuperating from knee surgery and was forced to sit out the match billed as his official farewell almost exactly a year ago, so he has reason to be doubly pleased at the weekend. "We'll give him the chance to play from the start and do his stuff," coach Jürgen Klinsmann informed fcbayern.de.
A day to enjoy
It was "a very special match" for Podolski, Klinsmann continued, underlining the significance of the encounter for his left-footed striker. "Lukas is going home, he has strong affinity with the club. It's the club where he grew up, where the fans took him to their hearts, where he was practically a god. He should enjoy the day there, because in the evening he'll be sitting with us on the plane to Munich.“
The coach voiced hopes that Podolski's return would be "a match worthy of the occasion," but Bayern's priorities in the meeting with the promoted outfit lay elsewhere. With nearly four weeks of pre-season training under their belts, it would be "interesting to observe how the players have reacted to the heavy schedule," Klinsmann continued. That would especially be the case with the Euro 2008 stars, who in the main only resumed training last week.
Following Wednesday's 2-1 defeat in the T-Home Supercup against Borussia Dortmund, victory over the Rhineland side would be "nice, but if it doesn't work out, not a disaster either," Klinsmann explained. "Our training schedule is geared towards reaping the first fruits in mid-August.“ The head coach duly ordered his men through two gruelling training sessions in the blazing heat on Friday.
Podolski similarly played down the significance of Saturday's encounter. "It's just another test for us. Obviously we'll want to win, it's not a joke match," he reasoned, "but what matters is running into form. We're slowly but surely rediscovering our rhythm, and matches are good for that."
Mad about Poldi
Another FCB man looking forward to the match is Christian Lell, loaned to Köln by Bayern from 2004 to 2006. "I experienced a lot in my time with Köln: promotion, relegation, three coaches in two seasons," the Munich-born player recalled. The right-back is hoping he and his team-mates improve on their performance in Dortmund. "I hope we keep it tighter and send out a first signal.“ Even if Bayern win, it will do little to dampen the Podolski fever which has gripped Cologne, as Lell admitted: "They're all mad about Poldi."