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Defying the elements

Ribéry and Robben join squad in the snow

The training camp in Dubai is fading from the memory, as the Bayern stars turns their attention to the imminent resumption of Bundesliga hostilities. After a gruelling week of mid-season training in the Gulf emirate, Germany’s most successful club have five days on home territory to prepare for the first competitive match of the second half of the season, Friday’s meeting with Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena.

“It’ll only count as a good mid-season period if we beat Hoffenheim,” Louis van Gaal admonished ahead of the team’s return from the balmy climes of the Gulf to the big freeze in Munich. The players have been forced to acclimatise to a temperature difference of some 40 degrees Celsius. “But I’ve never had a problem with the weather,” said Van Gaal, “everyone knows to dress up warm, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Ribéry and Robben involved

The players duly took to the Säbener Strasse practice ground on Monday morning, well wrapped up in bobble hats and gloves, for a training session lasting around an hour. Both Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben, who left the emirate nursing minor injuries, were able to complete the workout, as the squad slowly but surely came to grips with the winter conditions in Munich, light snow falling around them as they exercised.

Bayern visit Swiss top flight outfit Basel on Tuesday evening for their solitary winter warm-up fixture. “The game is only there to get the players back into the groove. We’ll use it to recapture our rhythm,” commented Van Gaal. The match will also help the players adjust to the tricky conditions underfoot, a stark contrast to the soft and dry grass surface at the training facility in Dubai.

Focus on Hoffenheim

For the friendly against the men coached by former FCB stalwart Thorsten Fink, Van Gaal said he would field “two different teams”, as the meeting with Hoffenheim three days later “is the more important match.” Apart from Ribéry and Robben, who will remain at the Säbener Strasse on Tuesday and train with assistant coach Andries Jonker, all the players who were in Dubai will travel to the city straddling the Swiss-German-French border.

The FCB camp is generally optimistic about the second half of the current campaign. “We’re in an excellent position in all three competitions,” declared Christian Nerlinger, although the director of sport emphasised the importance of a good restart after the shortest winter break for 31 years: “Our opening fixtures against Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen will tell us a lot about where we’re heading.”