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Running into form

Bayern turn focus to Leverkusen clash

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With the return of the club’s international stars to the Säbener Strasse on Thursday afternoon, the squad began preparing for Sunday’s Bundesliga meeting with leaders Bayer Leverkusen. “It's obviously not been optimal in training for the last ten days, but we’ve tried to make the best of it,” said keeper Jörg Butt. “Basically, today marks the start of us concentrating completely on Leverkusen.”

On the positive side, all the internationals returned from spells with their national teams fit and well, ready to focus on what manager Uli Hoeneß has called the “biggest game in the first half of the season” against the undefeated leaders. “It’s an incredibly important match, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise,” confirmed Miroslav Klose.

Klose resumes squad programme

The internationals, spearheaded by FCB captain Mark van Bommel and his deputies Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, were only required to perform light exercise and a shake-down on returning to Munich. After six weeks on the sidelines with a ruptured calf muscle, Ivica Olic was able to rejoin the squad for the first time. The Croat will slowly increase his training workload over the course of the coming week.

Klose, whose children have swine flu, was excused international duty and sat out training last week as a precaution, but resumed the normal exercise routine in midweek. “I’d have liked to train last week as well,” the 30-year-old said. The Germany goal-getter reported to fitness specialist Darcy Norman for a handful of solo training sessions earlier this week, “but I still have some catching up to do,” the player remarked. “I hope I manage before Sunday.”

Robben recovering

Coach Louis van Gaal has similar hopes for Arjen Robben. The wide player, who pulled out of the Netherlands’ friendlies against Italy and Paraguay with knee pain, spent Thursday with sports rehab coach Thomas Wilhelmi on an intensive fitness workout. Robben could resume the squad schedule on Saturday and would then be a contender for an outing against Leverkusen.

Van Gaal is definitely without Olic, who needs at least another week before regaining match fitness, long-term absentee Franck Ribéry, and Andreas Görlitz, who is recuperating after a minor operation on a toe. In a recent interview, Hoeneß expressed confidence that Ribéry “could hopefully train again next week.”