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Three games to go

FCB turn focus to run–in

Bayern boss Pep Guardiola gave his players some 40 hours to “lick their wounds,” as chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge put it, in the wake of the Champions League exit to Real Madrid. The idea was banish the hurt from the painful 4–0 defeat, rebuild mental and physical energy, and concentrate on the last three matches of a season that has otherwise gone so well for last term’s treble winners: it has included the earliest championship triumph of all time, a semi-final place in Europe’s elite club competition and a berth in the DFB Cup final. The glittering gold domestic knockout trophy is the club’s final target before the majority of the squad head for the World Cup in Brazil.

Guardiola duly gathered his men on Labor Day to begin preparations for the run–in. “I’ll be trying to pick the players up,” the Spaniard said after the heaviest defeat of his coaching career. The remaining games are the Bundesliga meetings with Hamburger SV and VfB Stuttgart, and the highlight cup final clash with Borussia Dortmund on 17 May. Victory in Berlin would “make a good season into a very good one,” board director for sport Matthias Sammer said.

Arjen: Life goes on

“We need to go home and shed a few tears - and then life goes on. That’s football,” observed Arjen Robben, who also issued an appeal: “We don’t need to get negative among ourselves. It’s actually been an outstanding season. We’ve broken all kinds of records in the Bundesliga, we’ve won the league, we’re in the cup final and we made the Champions League semi-finals. If that’s a bad season I don’t know what a good one is.”

Sammer reckons the priority is to “shake ourselves down, pool our energy, rebuild the positive tension and play well in our remaining matches.” Manuel Neuer agreed: “We mustn’t lament the past, we need to look to the future,” the keeper declared, describing the weekend meeting with HSV as “tough after a heavy defeat and being knocked out by Real Madrid.” However, in the time remaining before the final in Berlin, the onjective is “to recover the form we had earlier in the season.”

As always, work with the ball formed the centrepiece of Thursday’s workout, with the players spending around 95 minutes on passing and shooting practice and match situation drills. However the main purpose of the session was to restore some fun and enjoyment after the negative experience last Tuesday, although the best recipe for that would be success in a competitive sporting context. Saturday in Hamburg provides the perfect opportunity.