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Rest and replenish

FCB recharge batteries ahead of treble push

After a punishing schedule of seven games in 22 days, the stars have finally seized the chance to rest their weary legs and replenish depleted reserves of energy before the final push for a potential treble. Following Saturday’s 1-1 draw in the top of the table clash away to Bayer Leverkusen, Louis van Gaal handed his players two full days off in advance of preparing for the run-in, ordering them not to report back until Wednesday.

“That’s enough two games a week for now. We can go home and put our feet up at last,” a grateful Philipp Lahm commented. However, the same playing rhythm restarts on Saturday when Bayern meet Hannover in the league, before the next short period without a midweek game ahead of the last match of the league season away to Hertha BSC Berlin.

No Van Gaal for two days

The demanding recent programme featuring do-or-die matches in the DFB Cup (away to Schalke), Champions League (Manchester United) and the Bundesliga (Schalke, Leverkusen) have exacted a huge mental and physical toll. Captain Mark van Bommel described it as “a physical assault on your body, playing so many games at such a high level in such a short space of time.” Thomas Müller also welcomed the brief interlude: “We need to recharge our batteries.”

However, Van Gaal understands the danger in interrupting the normal training/playing rhythm at such an important stage of the season: “It’s a risk, because you have to train to maintain your edge. We can lose that in two days.” The boss sees advantages too: “Two days without Van Gaal will do the players good – and me too.”

Refreshment for body and soul

A couple of days off could, however, boost the players’ motivation. “We weren’t quite there, mentally and physically,” commented Lahm after the Leverkusen clash. However, mental focus will be crucial in the remaining weeks of the season, as Bayern are two points clear in the Bundesliga and benefit from a supposedly easy run-in, at home to Hannover, away to Mönchengladbach, at home to Bochum, and finally away to Hertha.

“But the run-in isn’t easy at all. Some of these teams are battling relegation,” warned Lahm. However, the Germany defender is confident Bayern will secure a 22nd German championship. “It’s all in our own hands, which is an important factor.”

No guarantees

“We won all the reverse fixtures before Christmas, but it won’t be easy. Fortunately, we have no game this week, so the players can relax and compensate for the lost energy,” said Van Gaal. Director of sport Christian Nerlinger also warned against complacency. “We lost to Frankfurt, we dropped points to Köln, so although we’re in a good position, we have to concentrate.”

Bayern also have the Champions League semi-final double-header against Olympique Lyon, and the cup final in Berlin a week after their final league fixture. Bayern could win a treble this term, as Bastian Schweinsteiger emphasised: “I hope everyone’s noticed this. All too often in recent seasons, it’s not been the case that we’ve been so well-placed in three competitions. We have to take the chance which is definitely on offer.”