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Robben unfit

FCB fired up for China trip

At about this time last year the FC Bayern stars were in the USA with stops in New York and Portland. The record German champions are heading east this summer for an eight-day tour taking in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Some 190 people will board Thursday evening’s flight to the Audi Summer Tour China 2015. “We’ll be going flat out to expand in this market over the next few years,” declared chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, “naturally, we’re not going there on vacation. We have to find a middle way between FC Bayern’s marketing interests and our preseason preparations.”

Alongside daily PR and media appointments, the schedule includes seven training sessions and three friendlies: Saturday’s meeting with Valencia at the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, the clash with Inter Milan in Shanghai three days later, and the game against Guangzhou Evergrande on 23 July in Guangzhou, opponents FCB already know well from the 3-0 semi-final victory at the 2013 Club World Cup.

The party will cover some 20,000 km in the air over the next week. Conditions will be hot and sticky, and the local time is six hours ahead of Central European Time. “It’ll be demanding,” acknowledged Manuel Neuer, “but the trip is very important to the club commercially. We’re also playing three very good teams. That’ll tell us a lot.”

22 pros, three reserves

Neuer’s team-mates share his opinion. Thomas Müller, a previous visitor to China with FCB three years ago and whose replica shirts sell very well in Asia, told “We want to make a good impression and lay on a treat for our Chinese fans.” Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is looking forward to “a new experience. It’ll be exciting.”

The squad includes 22 first-team players. Franck Ribéry, Holger Badstuber, Dante and Jan Kirchhoff miss out with injury, and Arjen Robben has also been advised to stay behind in Munich due to muscular problems. Reserve team players Phillipp Steinhart, Fabian Benko and Felix Pohl will make the trip instead. “Because of the way the trip’s been planned I’m sure it’ll be a great success,” commented Rummenigge, “We last went to China three years ago and won the treble straight afterwards, so maybe it’s a good omen.”