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Robben doubtful

Guardiola: It’s a massive game

Some 150 reporters flocked to the Allianz Arena early on Tuesday afternoon for FC Bayern’s obligatory pre-match press conference prior to the Champions League clash with Juventus – and the journalists came not only from Italy, Spain and England but even from the USA and South America, proving that the allure of the tie stretches even beyond footballing Europe. “It’s a massive game, a final for both teams,” Pep Guardiola declared.

Bayern go into the return leg as slight favourites following the 2-2 draw in the first meeting in Turin. “We want to score goals and win, but we need to be patient and intelligent too,” observed Franck Ribéry. Juve have been hit by the late withdrawals of striker Paulo Dybala and defender Claudio Marchiso, but Arjen Robben is also rated doubtful for the home team. Asked whether the Dutchman would play, Guardiola was non-committal: “I don’t know, but I hope so.”

Germany’s record champions completed their final pre-match training session in wintry conditions at the Säbener Strasse facility in the morning. The entire squad took part with the exception of Robben, Jérôme Boateng and Holger Badstuber. “Our target is to win. We’ll try and make the play and defend well. We need to exploit our strengths and their weaknesses,” urged Guardiola, who is expecting a “similar match” to the clash in Turin three weeks ago. “Small details will decide it.”

Start for Ribéry?

In-form striker Robert Lewandowski voiced great respect for Wednesday’s opponents. “Juventus are a top-class team, both at home and on the road. They’ll patiently wait for a single chance to score. We have to be aware of that.” Bayern will need to be “just as effective” in front of goal and must make sure “not to repeat our mistakes from the first leg,” Lewandowski continued: “Italian teams never lose their heads. They stick to their tactical plan right to the end.”

Despite the visitors’ selection problems, Guardiola expects Juve to be very strong. “They’re still a dangerous team with huge mental strength,” said the Catalan, “they’re defensively superb with ten men behind the ball. I may not like it myself, but I have to admire their defensive ability.” The Italian league leaders have gone a remarkable 926 minutes in Serie A without conceding a goal. The task of picking apart this exceptional rearguard falls to the likes of Franck Ribéry, who is rapidly recovering peak form after a lengthy injury lay-off.

Naturally, the Frenchman did not know on Tuesday whether he would start the match, but he is certainly raring to go: “I’m fit and I’m feeling very good. I’m back out on the pitch and it’s like a new life.” Ribéry and all his team-mates are determined to reach the quarter-finals, although Wednesday’s contest in front of a full house at the Allianz Arena will be a stiff test, as chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge warned: “We’ll need a good day!”

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