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From Minsk to La Paz

Fourteen FCB stars scatter round the world

Sunday was spent raising a glass to a successful start in 2012/13 at the annual team trip to the Oktoberfest. On the following day, a majority of the squad swapped the beer tent for a seat in an aircraft, because the next ten days are dedicated to international matches, with 14 FCB stars joining up with their national teams on Monday.

Germany boss Joachim Löw has nominated seven Bayern men for 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Ireland in Dublin on 12 October and at home to Sweden in Berlin on 16 October. The contingent comprises keeper Manuel Neuer, captain Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos, Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng.

Lahm suspended but on the trip

The Germans are gathering in Frankfurt to commence preparations for the tough encounter in Dublin, with the party scheduled to travel to the Irish capital on Thursday. Lahm will make the trip, although he is suspended for the clash on Friday.

Germany are top of European Group C with maximum points from two matches, and would be exceptionally well set should they double that tally in the forthcoming round of fixtures against their strongest rivals on paper. “We're favourites in this group, but we’ll have to invest a huge amount," observed Kroos. The Irish and Swedes have only played once so far, but both recorded victories.

Martinez versus Ribéry

Arguably the highlight of the round is the Group I clash a week on Tuesday when Javi Martinez and Spain entertain Franck Ribéry and France in Madrid. Prior to that mouth-watering showdown, Martinez will have a taste of déjà vu when Spain play Belarus in Minsk, the very place where FCB fell to BATE Borisov last week in the Champions League.

The French do not have a qualifier this Friday and instead play a friendly against Japan in Paris. Ribéry, recently troubled by a minor hamstring injury, is hoping to be rested for the warm-up game. Elsewhere, Xherdan Shaqiri and Switzerland face two qualifiers, at home to Norway in Berne and then away to Iceland in Reykjavik. Two wins would see the Swiss move onto the maximum 12 points in Group E.

Up, up and away for Pizza

Group A features two Bayern players, Mario Mandzukic of Croatia and Daniel van Buyten of Belgium. The pair also have qualifying double-headers: the Croats meet Macedonia in Skopje and Wales in Osijek, with the Belgians away to Serbia in Belgrade and home to Scotland in Brussels.

Anatoly Tymoshchuk and Ukraine opened with a draw against England at Wembley, but now really need to beat Moldova away from home, before entertaining Montenegro in Kyiv on 16 October. The player comfortably clocking up the most air miles on this occasion is Claudio Pizarro, who must contend not only with an overnight flight but also Peru’s meeting with Bolivia in La Paz, where the stadium is some 3,600 metres above sea level. The Peruvians then meet Paraguay in Asuncion four days later. Pizza and Co urgently need points as they lie a lowly seventh in the South American qualifying table.

Rump squad for Heynckes

Back in Munich, the group for training over the next ten or so days features Brazilian trio Dante, Luiz Gustavo and Rafinha. Arjen Robben is staying at home to work on a hamstring injury, with boss Jupp Heynckes also supervising Tom Starke, Diego Contento, Emre Can and Mitch Weiser. Mario Gomez continues with his sports rehab program.

David Alaba is training again as normal after recovering from a stress fracture, but he too will remain in Munich for the time being. Heynckes said he would contact Austria boss Marcel Koller to discuss “whether it makes sense for him to join up with the national team – in all probability it doesn’t." The Austrians play Kazakhstan in Vienna on 16 October, but Alaba has only been placed on standby.