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Media open day

Lengthy grilling for Sammer, Martinez and Co

It was in many ways business as usual at the Säbener Strasse training facility on Wednesday. A crowd of around 1,000 fans watched the players who started Tuesday night’s DFB cup semi-final match warm down with beach volleyball, while the rest of the squad completed a punishing training session. However, in reality it was not quite ‘business as usual’, because the Champions League semi-final first leg in six days’ time prompted a change to the normal schedule. A UEFA media open day attracted some 60 reporters, including 25 from Spain, who quizzed Matthias Sammer, Jupp Heynckes, Franck Ribéry and Javi Martinez for a full three and a half hours.

“Barcelona have shaped European club football for many years, and were the role model for many stages of the game – and I'm hoping I'm right with ‘were’," commented Sammer, “we want to grow into something, but we're not anything yet." The board director for sport compared the current season to running a marathon, “and we're not at the finish line yet."

Praise for Barcelona superstars

Heynckes was asked how badly Bayern will miss the suspended Mario Mandzukic in the first meeting. “It's not causing me any headaches," said the head coach, “I have Gomez, the second-highest scorer in the Champions League last season, and Pizarro, the non-German player with the most goals in Bundesliga history." Heynckes paid tribute to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi: “There's one word to describe Messi: a phenomenon. He's up there with Zidane, Maradona and Pele. Anyone who scores 50 goals in a season is from a different planet."

Martinez chose to heap praise on Barça schemer Xavi: “He's the best midfielder in the world and Barcelona's engine." The Bayern stopper is expecting “two great games. The spectators will enjoy it." Eight months after joining Munich, the man nicknamed Xaver at the Säbener Strasse said he was “positive. I'm proud and delighted to have come here." And showing off his rapidly advancing command of German, he used the language to say: “We want to go to London!"

Ribéry delighted for Abidal

Ribéry was asked about Barcelona defender Eric Abidal, the France international who made a comeback a few weeks ago after a year away from the game necessitated by a liver transplant. “I'm really pleased about it. I've been in touch with him a lot. He’s strong, a good person," reported Ribéry, who is confident in the build-up to the clash with Barcelona: “We have a great chance."

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