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Schweinsteiger set for return

Guardiola: We’re ready for the challenge

Eight days to go, that’s what people are currently thinking in Munich. Eight days until the Oktoberfest. For FC Bayern, the festival starts a week early, so on Friday the watchword at the Säbener Strasse was: One day to go. One day until the start of the “frantic fall”, as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described it, with seven games in 22 days, including the first two Champions League matches. Preparations have been made for the “important weeks ahead,” Pep Guardiola said, reassuring his audience and FCB fans: ”We’re ready for the challenges that lie in wait.”

It all starts on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on FCB Web Radio) with an important Bundesliga match, with second versus third, Bayern against Hannover at the Allianz Arena. Guardiola has not had to think long about his starting line-up: “We only have 17 or 18 players that are fit to play,” the head coach explained on Friday. Thiago, Mario Götze, Javi Martínez, Holger Badstuber and youngster Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are out with injuries. “However, this is no excuse,” Guardiola insisted. Munich’s sights are set on a home win.

On the plus side, all the players on international duty last week returned “fit and ready to play.” Furthermore, Jan Kirchhoff and Bastian Schweinsteiger are available again after injury. “Their condition is improving on a weekly basis,” Guardiola reported. Vice-captain Schweinsteiger may even be fit to start, “but I’m not sure if he’s ready for the full 90 minutes.”

The team’s steady progress is cause for optimism, the boss explained: “We’ve been creating more and more chances, while letting our opponents have fewer and fewer. It's the first step in the right direction,” the 42-year-old commented, reviewing the last few games before the international break. And for the FCB camp as a whole, many pleasant memories come to mind when thinking of last year’s games against Hannover, as Thomas Müller and Co cruised to victory in both games, the first 5-0 and the second 6-1.

However, warned Franck Ribéry: “It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Saturday is a new game, and it will be challenging.” The Lower Saxony team have made the best start to a season in their history (nine points after four matches) and will be “as confident as ever,” sporting director Dirk Dufner said:  “It would be tragic if we left Munich having to say we didn't even try.”

First outing for the Lederhosen-look

“The chances of an upset are as high as they ever will be,” Hannover coach Mirko Slomka believes, even though he rivals Guardiola in terms of absent players. Steven Cherundolo, Christian Pander and Andre Hoffmann are sidelined with injury, and the club’s top scorers Szabolcs Huszti (suspended due to a red card) and Mame Diouf (injured while on international duty) will be out too. “Of course it hurts our chances,” Slomka admitted.

Bayern against Hannover, second against third, the start of a packed programme. “In the words of our president, full power!”  Guardiola said, referring to a recent newspaper interview with Uli Hoeneß. As an added bonus, Bayern will be playing in their new away kit for the very first time. With the Lederhosen-look and the Oktoberfest around the corner, what can go wrong?