Bayern fired up for clash with Schalke

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He remembers that game like it was yesterday: Xabi Alonso had only just come to FC Bayern from Real Madrid, hadn't even trained with the team yet – and was starting for the record champions in an away game against Schalke on 30 August 2014. What was his debut like? Impressive! "It was something really special for me," Alonso recalled on Wednesday.

On Friday evening the Bavarians are in Gelsenkirchen again and Alonso is looking forward to revisiting the site of his first competitive match for the club. "It's very special in this stadium, I love the atmosphere, they've got passionate fans. It will be difficult for us." But the Spaniard loves a challenge – his exceptional mastery of the German language being one such example.

Congrats for Rafinha

"I think it's going to be a difficult match," agreed Carlo Ancelotti, "they lost the first match, so they will be even more motivated. Playing Schalke is always difficult. And they have a great stadium, a fantastic atmosphere. We'll give it our all and try to win."

His team is certainly wide-awake and in good spirits. Even before the training session the mood was boisterous as the team and coaches sang to Rafinha for his 31st birthday. After that, the group got stuck into training. Another happy sight was Kingsley Coman mixed in among the singers, alongside David Alaba, Thiago and Javi Martínez who had all recently returned home. The Frenchman took part in the warm-up with his teammates, before moving off to an adjacent pitch to complete his own individual training programme.

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