FCB fully focused on cup clash
The searing heat in Munich on Saturday was no barrier to Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and company, as the stars hurled themselves into every sprint, tackle and passing move with total commitment. The players are clearly motivated ahead of the DFB Cup first round trip to face FC Nöttingen at 16.00 CET on Sunday, where the competition's most successful club naturally intend to avoid any possible slip-up.
"Pre-season is over. We have to focus completely on the cup now," declared sporting director Matthias Sammer, urging the players to concentrate hard on the match at Karlsruhe's Wildparkstadion. FCN were relegated from the fourth-tier Regionalliga last season, but no-one at FCB is taking the task lightly. "Nöttingen have played Bundesliga teams three times in the cup. They'll throw everything they have at us," Sammer warned.
The men from Munich understand the danger, because the fifth-tier side will be totally up for the fight. "History shows that mental toughness on its own can't beat quality, but it's an important factor," continued Sammer, "clearly we're the better team, but we'll also need mental strength. We don't want to see a difference between the teams in terms of mentality."
Manuel Neuer promised that would not be the case. "We generally play lower league teams in the first round of the cup. We're familiar with it," said the world's best keeper. "We'll do the job and go through to the next round." David Alaba agreed: "Nöttingen will make it as hard for us as they can. But we'll play our football and make the second round."
Robben and Dante return
The 17-time cup winners are leaving nothing to chance. "We've analysed our opponents," revealed Sammer, "the coaching staff will brief the team as they do for every match, preparing them for Nöttingen's strengths, weaknesses, dead-ball potential and formation. We approach it as if points were at stake." The sporting director is pleased with Bayern's pre-season efforts. "It's been very, very good and intensive," Sammer noted approvingly.
Adding to the good news, Pep Guardiola can make use of Arjen Robben's services again. The Dutchman, given a breather during the 2015 Audi Cup this week, completed the final pre-match workout and duly boarded the team bus. Dante and Joshua Kimmich, who are training with the team again, could be fielded as well. The same goes for Thiago, but after the Spaniard's bout of stomach trouble Bayern will "take no risks," Sammer reported.
Sunday's opponents are taking a realistic approach: "It would be ridiculous if we sent out a team to analyse how to crush Bayern. My players would laugh at me if I told them: Lahm is no good," said Nöttingen boss Michael Wittwer. The former Karlsruhe pro is hoping for for "a good game and a great event" at his 'home' Wildparkstadion. The Bavarians would certainly agree -- as long as the record cup winners ultimately reach the second round for the 21st time in a row.