First training session in Beijing

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The Bird's Nest in Beijing, venue for the opening ceremony and the track and field events at the 2008 Olympics, is a truly remarkable structure. The FC Bayern stars confirmed that for themselves on Friday afternoon when they completed their first training session on Chinese soil. Some 24 players were greeted by rapturous applause as they took to the pitch. The only absentee was Javi Martínez, who is nursing a minor knock. "We're delighted to be here," Pep Guardiola declared at the press conference held just before the workout.

"It's fantastic to see how there are FC Bayern fans all over the world," commented Philipp Lahm, still overwhelmed by the frenetic reception afforded the players on their arrival at the airport. "I've rarely witnessed anything like that. Unbelievable," admitted the club captain. The frenzied scenes continued at the team hotel: "All hell broke loose," Lahm reported. "But it's fun. This is why we undertake trips like these."

In pleasant temperatures of 23 degrees Celsius but with the humidity typically high, the workout comprised light exercise routines designed to shake off the weariness caused by the nine-hour flight from Germany and the change in time zones. The stars will be back at the stadium on Saturday evening for the first friendly match of the tour, the Audi Football Summit against Spanish top flight side FC Valencia. "We'll give it our best shot and try to do as well as we can against a Champions League team," commented Guardiola, "but we're very much still in preseason."

The schedule is entirely geared towards the competitive restart in around four weeks and the quest for silverware on three fronts. In his third season with FCB, the head coach said he would "try to push the players even more, so we're ultimately in a position to beat the best teams in the world. We'll go for it again this season with everything we have." Guardiola does not believe the eight-day trip to the Far East will cause complications: "All the world's big clubs go on summer tours to Asia or the Americas."

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