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Back to basics

Focus switches to Freiburg task

The Bayern groundsmen were out in force again on Thursday morning, clearing the main training pitch of yet more freshly-fallen snow, after another batch of freezing wintry weather crossed the Bavarian capital in the early hours and beyond. But half an hour ahead of the scheduled start, playable green grass was again visible at the FCB practice ground.

On this particular day, the ground staff probably only needed to clear half a pitch at the most, as Louis van Gaal sent most of his squad indoors to the performance centre for regeneration exercise. Only a handful of stars braved the outdoor conditions, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is suspended for the weekend meeting with Freiburg. A number of reserves made up the numbers for a decent-sized training party.

Midweek exertions

Two days after the fiercely-contested Champions League meeting with Fiorentina, and two days ahead of the next Bundesliga fixture, the key task at FCB was to recharge spent batteries. Thanks to the game in Florence taking place on the Tuesday “we’ve at least got an extra day until the next match, and that’s really important,” advised Thomas Müller.

The players were forced to the limit before coming away from the Fiorentina clash with the prize of a place in the last eight. The traditional post-match banquet at the team hotel did not start until after midnight. “So you don’t get to sleep before two or three in the morning. Then you get back on the plane, and once you’re in Munich, there’s training,” Müller explained, describing the stresses of the three-day programme for Champions League away fixtures.

Swift recovery

“After a trip like that and a hard match, the first thing you want to do when you get home is lick your wounds,” continued Müller. However, the physical effort was not the main problem. “Two games a week isn’t hard in terms of fitness. The problem is that you’re mentally drained,” the Germany international continued. “There’s no physical issue, but it can be mentally demanding,” confirmed Mark van Bommel.

A good number of the squad are, of course, accustomed to the late winter/early spring rhythm from previous seasons. “As of today, we’re focused on Freiburg,” said captain Van Bommel. Müller, who is in his first full term as a pro, has also learned to cope with the demands. “Switching focus isn’t hard,” said the 20-year-old in the aftermath of his fourth Champions League away trip: “We need to recover quickly, and then get stuck back in." Victory over Freiburg would strengthen Bayern’s grip on top spot in the standings. “We have a job to do in the Bundesliga now,” Müller concluded.