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Build-up to the restart

Müller and Boateng’s ‘good feeling’

A small man greeted the players when they took to the practice ground for training late on Wednesday afternoon. He was dressed in a Bayern scarf, and wore a hat and cool sunglasses. His nose was perhaps a shade big, his arms were long but extremely thin, and his legs were short but powerful. So was it a new signing for Pep Guardiola, just in time for the official Bundesliga restart fixture away to VfL Wolfsburg on Friday evening? Of course not, the squad is packed with quality as it is. The gentleman in question was in fact a snowman, the product of another bout of wintry weather in Munich.

The players initially gazed at the visitor in awe and amusement but soon turned their attention to the matter at hand, with 100 percent concentration on the second to last workout before the first competitive match of the new year. “It’s great that we’re starting again,” Thomas Müller said on Wednesday, “I have a good feeling when I consider the shape the individual players are in. And we certainly won’t have got any worse as a team, we’ve been training together for three full weeks.”

The task now is the fine-tuning. Who will make the starting line-up for the meeting with the team in second place? The only players Guardiola cannot pick are long-term absentees Philipp Lahm, Javi Martínez and Thiago. “We’re optimistic. Nothing should stand in the way of a good performance,” mused Müller. Team-mate Jérôme Boateng was a touch more cautious: “Everyone’s working hard, but nonetheless you never quite know what’s going to happen.”

Boateng wary of de Bruyne

The defender said that was because “Wolfsburg are a very good team. They’re up at the top by rights. They’re very aggressive, skilled in attack and always dangerous.” Boateng is especially wary of Kevin de Bruyne, “an outstanding attacking player.” Bayern cannot afford even a hint of complacency. “We need to be up for it straight away and make a good start.”

A victory in Wolfsburg would make the situation in the table even more comfortable, as the Reds would extend their lead from 11 to 14 points. “It’s a nice cushion and we shouldn’t play it down,” said Müller, “but it still wouldn’t mean the championship in mathematical terms.” The game indeed still has to be played, and the Bayern camp is looking forward to it tremendously. The Bundesliga is back!