'Best performance this year' as FCB defy injury setback

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From behind, Pep Guardiola looked like he always does: stylish shoes, elegant trousers, and a fashionable jacket. The latter was left open, despite the unpleasant weather, to show the whole German footballing family his red T-shirt saying: "We're with you. You're going to make it again." He did not take it off for the interviews or the press conference either. Guardiola's message was clear: the 3-1 victory in Augsburg was dedicated to Holger Badstuber!

In a practice match shortly before the end of Saturday's training session Badstuber suffered the latest in a seemingly interminable series of bad injuries: a fractured ankle. It was a truly bitter diagnosis. "It was a big shock and we all had to get over it first," revealed Philipp Lahm, "we can only try to encourage him. He's a model pro, so it's my turn to show courage and say that he will return 100 percent."

With Jérôme Boateng, Javi Martínez and Mehdi Benatia already on the sidelines, Bayern had to make do without yet another centre-back in Sunday's match against Augsburg. "Of course it's not an ideal situation," commented Guardiola, who refused to curse his and the team's poor luck. "It's better to look ahead and fully trust in the fit players." David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich for instance, who turned in a flawless display in central defence against Augsburg.

Minor knocks for Vidal and Alaba

"Both are quick and strong in one-on-ones. They have everything it takes to be a centre-back, apart from height," analysed Thomas Müller. Matthias Sammer joined in the chorus of praise for the FCB duo, adding that the squad is still strong enough. "We have many players who are fired up to play. The key question is how we cope with the current situation. We've been doing it very well so far."

Munich have often had problems in recent matches away to Augsburg, but Sunday's edition of the Bavarian derby went well for the men in red. Sammer spoke of "the best performance so far this year." Müller, who added his name to the scoresheet (76) after Robert Lewandowski bagged yet another brace (15, 62), had "fun. It was a passionate performance in an intense game. The rain matched it perfectly well."

Fortunately, the German record champions were spared major injuries this time. Arturo Vidal (blow to the head) and David Alaba (broken tooth) picked up minor knocks, but will be fit soon. The Bavarians maintained their eight-point edge over Borussia Dortmund in the standings and Franck Ribéry, Serdar Tasci (both members of the squad in Augsburg), Mario Götze and Benatia are set to return, so the atmosphere was relaxed on the return journey. Skipper Lahm gave a forecast: "Despite it all, I'm confident that we'll play successful football in the weeks to come."


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