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‘Extraordinary will to win’

Injury-hit Bayern go to the limit

The singing, bouncing and dancing Bayern fans were in party mood, as so often in recent months. And it was no surprise either, as they had just watched their team post an ultimately comfortable 2–0 victory away to Augsburg in the DFB Cup Round of 16. The players, coaches and management were equally relieved to have overcome a stiff challenge on the night, but concern over the injury sustained by Arjen Robben cast a damper on the mood. “I’m hoping he might be able to play again in 14 days,” Matthias Sammer mused after the final whistle at Augsburg’s SGL Arena.

However, the news from the medical unit on Thursday dashed any such hopes: Robben, the outstanding individual in recent matches, is out of action for the next six weeks. It is only the latest in a string of injury setbacks for Pep Guardiola and his men, although there was a ray of light with Franck Ribéry making a comeback in Augsburg. Xherdan Shaqiri and Claudio Pizarro are also poised to resume the squad programme. “We’re hopeful we might have one or two of them back very soon,” announced Sammer.

FCB were lacking a number of key players in Wednesday’s cup encounter, including Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but still prevailed in the course of 90 hard-fought minutes. “You don’t really notice our extremely long injury roster. That’s the bonus we have compared to other teams,” remarked Thomas Müller, whose goal 12 minutes from the end settled the outcome once and for all. Much earlier, the as yet uninjured Robben had handed his side a fourth-minute lead.

Taking nothing for granted

“That wasn’t an easy one,” reflected Mario Götze, “we’ve definitely played much better than that.” Manuel Neuer, who set a new club record with a sixth consecutive clean sheet in the cup, reminded reporters it was the biggest game of the year for the home side, “and they fought with every weapon they had.” Bayern responded by digging in and working hard. “We’ve done the job we came here to do,” summarised Müller.

Coach Guardiola was impressed by his team’s “extraordinary will to win. I’ve come to realise why Bayern have been so successful over the last few years,“ the Spaniard reflected. The Reds simply refuse to be knocked off their game by atrocious conditions such as the Moscow pitch or a host of injuries such as in Augsburg. Battling FCA did have their moments and a couple of dangerous half-chances, but Munich’s victory was never seriously in doubt. 

“It’s a good result and we’re pleased,” board director for sport Sammer commented: “This team keeps going right to the limit, and you can’t take that for granted. No-one is giving us any gifts.“ Exhibition football is always going to be a rarity with so many players on the sidelines. Furthermore, insisted Sammer, victories are never guaranteed even at FCB. “What matters is that we’re through to the next round,” he stated. The other important thing will be Arjen Robben hopefully recovering his superb form as quickly as possible in the New Year.

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