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Christmas cheer

Optimism abounds as FCB eye new year push

It was half past two in the morning before the team bus bearing Munich’s cup heroes arrived back at the Säbener Strasse. Louis van Gaal and his players, exhausted but happy following a nerve-shredding 6-3 victory away to VfB Stuttgart, went home to grab a few hours’ sleep, before reporting back for the final training session of the year. After a series of performance diagnostic tests, Van Gaal bade farewell to his players for the holiday season.

The stars will doubtless be in good heart when they return for mid-season training on 2 January. FCB are up to fifth in the Bundesliga, and through to the next stages in both the Champions League and the DFB Cup, a satisfactory position at the halfway mark, according to the club’s senior officials. “We’ve put ourselves into a position which gives us great confidence for the second half of the season,” commented director of sport Christian Nerlinger on Thursday afternoon.