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FCB conclude winter prep, part one

On the flight back to Munich from the Middle East, the players sat back, stretched out and relaxed: after a nine-day training camp with 11 workouts and two friendly matches, the time in the air felt luxurious. “We’ve done really good work,” summarised Matthias Sammer, “we’ve laid the foundations for success this season.” And once the squad were safely on the ground in Munich late on Tuesday afternoon, there was even more good news, as boss Pep Guardiola told his men they were not due back at the club until Thursday.

“It was a good way to round things off. We can go home satisfied,” Thomas Müller  reflected after the previous evening’s 8–0 friendly victory against Kuwait SC. “It was another worthwhile trip,” agreed Toni Kroos as he recalled the memorable reception in the Kuwaiti royal palace and the friendly warmth extended to everyone at the club during the brief stopover in Kuwait. And at least for the first half, the home side made the treble winners work: “It was a decent test,” Kroos said.

Experimentation and no injuries

Guardiola used the match in Kuwait and last week’s 2–0 victory over Sudanese champions Al-Merrikh SC in Doha to experiment, with four and three-man back lines, single and double holding midfielders, a false nine and a genuine centre forward, build-up play using short passes and long balls, and of course a chance to check out the three reserves who made the trip with the seniors. “If we don’t try things and out now, when will we?” observed Philipp Lahm. 

Jérôme Boateng felt the traditional mid-season training camp had been “very positive. We’ve had intense training sessions and there are no new injuries.” David Alaba, who twisted a knee in the second-to-last session in Doha, was fit enough to appear for the second half in Kuwait the following day. “The training sessions were quite spicy,” noted Lahm, “it’s demanding but we enjoyed it.“

No complacency, urges Sammer

For all the general satisfaction with the progress made over the previous nine days, and despite all the words of praise, Sammer took the opportunity of a Volkswagen end-of-camp gathering on the roof of the team hotel in Kuwait City to warn against any hint of complacency. “We have to stay alert,” declared the board member for sport. “We were only pushed to a limited extent in the two friendly matches, although that’s what we wanted at this point in time.“ However, FCB came dangerously close to conceding a goal or two, “so we shouldn’t be blinded by the fact we won both games.”

The time spent in Doha and Kuwait “means we’ve concluded the first stage of our preparations for the second half of the season,” explained Guardiola. As of Thursday the coach will begin the fine-tuning process prior to the Bundesliga restart fixture in Mönchengladbach eight days later. Müller believes teams will come after Bayern in the second of the season like never before: “All our opponents will rise above themselves. They’ll get at us and we’ll feel it. We won’t have any easy games.” The next chance to sit back and relax will not come along until the end of May.