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Hoffenheim buildup

Training heat combats early winter chill

The temperatures in Munich have plummeted and there is a definite winter chill in the air, but most of the Bayern stars spurned long jogging pants and ran out in shorts as normal for Thursday training. That wasn’t a problem either, as there was plenty of heat in the workout at the Säbener Strasse facility. Slide tackles, crunching challenges, sprints and fierce shots were the order of the day. The squad has entered the final countdown to Saturday’s Bundesliga trip to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. “Nearly everyone’s fit again and there’s an intense battle for places. It’s obvious all the players are going for it,” reported Tom Starke prior to the meeting with his former club, “we’re all enjoying it."

That’s largely because the sessions this week have finally included fundamental tactical schooling and full-on physical effort, with almost the entire squad involved. The last week without a midweek fixture and which saw all the club’s internationals actually in Munich was as long ago as 18 to 23 August, between matches against Frankfurt and Nürnberg. Ten weeks have passed since then, with the rhythm for the stars basically comprising a match, regeneration training, and then the next match. “It feels very good, because it’s not just the internationals, we also have lots of the injured players back with us,” commented Starke.

Dante confident for Saturday

One of that group is Javi Martínez, who made a long-awaited comeback against Hertha BSC last weekend and is now fully fit. Dante has also recovered from a gash to the foot. “Everything's okay. I’m not far short of 100 percent. I think I’ll be fit for Saturday,” the Brazilian said. Toni Kroos resumed the squad programme on Thursday after shaking off a groin problem, while Arjen Robben completed part of the team workout before reporting to fitness specialist Andreas Kornmayer on an adjacent training pitch for tailored exercise.

Coach Pep Guardiola said he would leave a decision on the trio’s fitness until closer to kick-off. The players definitely out of the Hoffenheim clash are Holger Badstuber (sports rehab after cruciate surgery), Thiago (rehab after ankle surgery), Xherdan Shaqiri and Claudio Pizarro (ruptured muscle bundles). Bayern will be well-prepared when they travel to the Kraichgau region on Friday, but that will be necessary, insisted Starke: “They keep it tight at the back and attack at pace down the flanks. They’re very dangerous."