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Contented coach

Van Gaal: We’ve made very good progress

A combination of good weather, productive training and an upbeat mood in the dressing room has prompted Louis van Gaal to issue a positive verdict on the club’s mid-season training camp in Dubai. “I’m extremely satisfied,” the coach declared, a full two days before the FCB party returns to Munich. “It’s been a good training camp. I think we’ve made very good progress.” The demanding programme continued on Friday with two more squad workouts.

Only on Thursday did Van Gaal relax the tempo in Dubai and give the players a morning off. “We’ve done a lot of training, and hard,” the coach said. Jörg Butt agreed: “We’ve trained in a very intensive and focused way from the first day onward. That’s surprised a few people.”

Starting eleven in mind

To increase the intensity of the training programme, Van Gaal deliberately eschewed any formal match in Dubai. “Training is more important than a friendly game,” said the 58-year-old. That’s fine with the players. “It means we can calmly prepare for the resumption of the season,” said Philipp Lahm. “We can really get down to training in earnest.”

That is exactly what Bayern have done. “That’s what I think preparation should be about,” said Van Gaal, who already has in mind his starting eleven for the match against Hoffenheim that kicks off the second half of the season in a week’s time. “Not much is going to change,” announced the Bayern coach, with reference to the training games in which his first and second elevens have faced off against each other. “You’ve seen the line-ups we’ve sent out in training.”

Turning up the heat in training

If the coach remains true to his word, the only change to Bayern’s starting line-up from the last match of 2009 against Hertha Berlin will be the return of Mark van Bommel, who was suspended from that game because of accumulated yellow cards. In training he has been part of a four-man midfield with Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller, with Ivica Olic and Mario Gomez in attack. In front of goalkeeper Butt will be the established defence of Lahm, Daniel Van Buyten, Martin Demichelis and Holger Badstuber.

However, in Dubai Van Gaal was anxious to deny that the door to regular first-team positions was barred to his second-string players. In training they could force their way in at any time, he said, noting in particular the high level of commitment demonstrated by the players in Dubai. “No-one wants to lose a training game,” Butt said. “If you’re not 100 percent on top of your game, you’ll get a roasting from your team-mates.”