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Guardiola on Doha, Riyadh and the future

The players enjoyed the sun in Doha on Friday morning, but they were hot and sweaty for other reasons too as Pep Guardiola put his troops through yet another punishing workout. “The conditions were superb,” the coach said on the eve of the group’s departure for home via Saudi Arabia. Guardiola also praised his players for their work-rate: “I’m very happy with our sessions and the players’ performance.”

After the first of the last two workouts at the Volkswagen Camp Qatar, the 43-year-old also reported on the state of fitness of David Alaba, Holger Badstuber & Co, and discussed the trip to Riyadh, the restart fixture, and his birthday on Sunday. summarises Guardiola’s key statements.

Pep Guardiola on...

...the training camp: “I’m very happy with the conditions, our sessions and the players’ performance. But we can still improve. We have plenty of opportunity to do so. We have two weeks’ of work ahead of us in Munich prior to our first match.”

...Holger Badstuber: “There are few defenders in the world with his quality on the ball, but he’s been injured for a long time. We need to take very good care of him and prevent him getting injured again.”

...David Alaba: “If it was the Champions League final tomorrow, he’d play! We’re asking him about his knee every day and it’s all great! We’re a better team if we have him. He can play anywhere, it’s outstanding! On a scale from 1 to 10 he’s always an 8 or 9, sometimes a 10. He’s one of Bayern’s most important players.”

...Mehdi Benatia’s injury: “It’s a real shame for him. He’s only managed one team training session due to his back problem, but it’s already improving. We still have two weeks.”

...Javi Martínez: “He’s not yet ready to work with the ball. But the docs have told me he’s coming along very, very well. They’re optimistic. I hope he’ll be back soon.”

...Bastian Schweinsteiger: “My nose is telling me he’ll play really well in the second half of the season.”

...the restart: “The first two or three games are very, very important. If we win them we’ll have taken a big step towards retaining the title.”

...the toughest domestic rivals: “Wolfsburg, and Leverkusen are there or thereabouts too. Schalke are getting better with every game under their new coach. Mönchengladbach are good too, and Borussia Dortmund will be back sooner or later.”

...the favourites for the Champions League: “The Spanish teams are very strong, but Chelsea are up there too. They’re my top favourites and they’ll really fight to win the Champions League. But we want to be in there as well.”

...the stopover in Saudi Arabia: “I was there once for a friendly match. It’s culturally totally different and we’ll have to adapt. We’re going there to play for the people.”

...the friendly meeting with Al-Hilal: “We want to play a little better than last time out. You need these games. It gets boring after a while if you only train and never face other teams.”

…his favoured line-up: “I have no fixed starting line-up in mind. I normally decide just before matches. I have huge respect for my players, including those who don’t play very often. My biggest problem is that I can only field 11 players. Every player at Bayern has great quality. That’s why they’re here.”

...his birthday on Sunday: “We’re not having a big party. I’ll celebrate at home with my family. My only birthday wish is good health.”