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Recovery and regeneration

Programme to restore fitness for Stuttgart

After the match is before the match, German footballing wisdom says, and hardly had Wednesday’s 120-minute cup fight at the Veltins Arena come to an end, the Bayern players began preparations for Saturday’s league meeting with VfB Stuttgart. So-called ice-tubs awaited the players in the dressing room, baths filled with water cooled to five degrees above freezing. Every player was required to take a plunge.

“I made sure they all went in,” Louis van Gaal reported on Friday. The shock of the sudden cold helps to freshen the players’ muscles more quickly. “It's actually a great feeling to cool off your overworked muscles that way,” said Thomas Müller. On their return to the team hotel, the squad consumed liberal quantities of electrolytic and high-carb beverages.

Widespread weariness

Thursday was similarly dedicated to the recharging of physical batteries, although the players were initially permitted to sleep in until 10 am. “They were all very tired, which I can understand,” said Van Gaal. On the squad’s return to Munich, the focus for the team regulars was on recovery, with warm-down jogs or cycling, followed by stretching and flexing exercise, and lengthy massage for weary legs. Football as such only reappeared on the menu at the final pre-match training workout on Friday.

In fact, Van Gaal believes physical fitness is not the greatest hurdle facing his players this week. “The biggest problem is mental,” he said. Just three days after the do-or-die highlight of a cup semi-final, his men face another must-win encounter. “But we’re a top team and should be glad we still have an interest in all three competitions,” the coach commented: “We train in order to prepare our players for two games a week.”

Tiredness alleviated by success

However, battling through to the cup final is undoubtedly a boost ahead of the tough task posed by VfB. “You recover better when you’ve won,” said Van Gaal, a sentiment signed off by Uli Hoeneß. “Winning a place in the final will give us a lift for Stuttgart,” said the FCB President: “Had we lost, it might have had a negative impact on the league, because you feel the fatigue more severely.” Added Christian Nerlinger: “Winning always helps the players recover from tiredness quicker.”

After the match is before the match, and that also applies on Saturday. Just three days after the Stuttgart showdown, Bayern are at home to Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-finals. At the final whistle against VfB, it’ll be another plunge into the ice tubs for the Munich stars.