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Pizarro and Shaqiri primed

FCB aim to break down Bremen’s defences

As it turned out, Bremen was not badly affected by autumn storm Xaver. The city’s flood defences held, the Weserstadion was spared, and the Bundesliga clash between home side SV Werder and Bayern will go ahead as planned on Saturday afternoon (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). However, the league leaders are determined to succeed where nature was repelled by conquering the Weserstadion and extending their run of 39 consecutive league games without defeat.

“Matches in Bremen are always tough regardless of the team they put out,” commented Thomas Müller in the build-up to the meeting with the side lying 13th in the table. “They’re not what they were three or four years ago,” continued Müller, but for that very reason “we mustn’t underestimate them. In the first instance matches have to be played and won, and that always involves working hard.“

Guardiola: Trophies not on offer yet

Bayern currently top the standings on 38 points, so victory in Bremen could earn the Reds the unofficial title of ‘autumn champions’ bestowed on the side leading the league at the halfway point – provided Borussia Dortmund (31 points) win the big game of the weekend against second-placed Bayer Leverkusen (34). However, Guardiola is not really concerned either way. “The Bundesliga doesn’t finish in the winter. It’s not very important,” the Spanish coach insisted on Friday. “It’s nice for the stats but there’s no trophy.”

The 42-year-old is much more concerned about his troops’ condition. “I’m a little worried about tomorrow,” he admitted. In the wake of Wednesday’s hard-fought cup victory over Augsburg, “my players have only had two and a half days to recover. And we have a lot of injuries, so there’s little opportunity to rotate.” Müller agreed: “Our energy levels probably aren’t 100 percent any more. We have to grit our teeth and get on with it.“

Pizarro and Shaqiri poised to return

FCB are without Arjen Robben until the new year as the winger is sidelined for six weeks with a knee injury. “It’s a real shame for him because he was playing brilliantly,” Guardiola said sympathetically. “It’s an unbelievably bitter setback,” Müller commented, “he’s made a decisive contribution to us winning all our recent matches. We have to compensate, just like we’ve compensated for injured players in the past. Others have to step up to the plate.”

One of the “others” would be Franck Ribéry, who made a brief comeback from injury in Augsburg and could start on Saturday. Claudio Pizarro and Xherdan Shaqiri are also back in contention, as the pair have recovered from ruptured muscle problems and will return to the squad against Werder. Captain Philipp Lahm is not yet match fit, but Guardiola thinks the 30-year-old could feature at home to Manchester City next Tuesday.

Dutt calls for hard running and effort

Bremen boss Robin Dutt feels the absence of Robben will not materially affect the course of the match. “I’m assuming Franck Ribéry will play, but to me it makes no difference whether it’s Robben or Ribery,” said the Werder coach. For the home team, Franco Di Santo is doubtful (hip), with Felix Kroos (ligament), Zlatko Junuzovic (ankle) and Sebastian Prödl (sports rehab) definitely ruled out.

“If we want to take anything against Bayern the eleven players who start the match will have to run for their sporting lives from the very first minute,” declared Dutt, aware of the challenge his men face against the champions. However, Guardiola does not for one moment believe it will all be a gentle stroll for Bayern, “because Werder have had the whole week to prepare and focus on the match. That makes it dangerous.“