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Coach urges caution

Bayern focus on Bundesliga duties

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Bayern are currently handling the triple challenge of glory in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and the Champions League with great aplomb. Sandwiched in between the emphatic 5–0 cup quarter-final victory away to Hamburg and the Round of 16 first leg away to Arsenal in Europe’s elite club competition, the Reds continue their quest for the domestic championship at home to SC Freiburg on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). The runaway league leaders aim to continue their current winning streak and at least maintain their comfortable cushion in the standings.

“We only ever concentrate on the next match. We’re in a good position, but we still have lots of running ahead of us,” said boss Pep Guardiola in the build-up to the meeting with the side in 15th. Domestic duties must first be completed before anyone at the club turns their thoughts to the tough challenge in London next Wednesday. “We have to keep focus. The next match is always the most important. We’ll concentrate on the Champions League as of Sunday,” continued Guardiola, whose team have gone 45 Bundesliga matches without defeat.

However, apart from Bayer Leverkusen, Freiburg were the only team Munich failed to beat in the first half of the league season, as the meeting in the south-west ended 1-1. “They played well in that game,” said Guardiola. “Freiburg are very aggressive,” noted the FCB coach, warning his men to expect hard-tackling, hard-running opponents at the Allianz Arena. “We have to make sure we play well and take the three points. That’s our target.”

Mandzukic suspended

The 43-year-old could well rotate his team for Saturday, resting a number of key players prior to the Arsenal clash. One change will be enforced, as last Wednesday’s hat-trick hero Mario Mandzukic serves a one-match ban. Bastian Schweinsteiger made a 25 minute comeback against Hamburg, but it is still “a little bit too early” for him to start, commented Guardiola. The champions are definitely without Franck Ribéry (surgery) and Holger Badstuber (sports rehab).

After a problematic first half of the season with only 14 points from their 17 matches, SCF have shown signs of an upswing since the winter break, with a 3-2 victory over Leverkusen, a relatively close 2–0 defeat in Mainz and a 1–1 draw at home to Hoffenheim. Freiburg have a dismal overall record in Munich with no wins, two draws and 12 defeats, but they are not running up the white flag before a ball has been kicked. “I’m not interested in statistics,” insisted charismatic boss Christian Streich. “The longer a streak lasts, the higher the probability it’ll come to an end.”

SCF keen on upset

The odds are stacked against the strugglers ending Munich’s tremendous record, but SCF are determined to cause the treble winners plenty of problems, just as they did in the reverse fixture. “We played really well at our place and did a fine job of resistance, although Munich had chances of course. But it’s a completely different stage of the season now,” continued Streich, whose team are out of the Europa League and fully focused on the bread-and-butter of the league.

“We’re looking forward to the match. We’ll run, fight and do everything we can tactically to ensure it isn’t easy for Bayern,” declared Streich. “We’re not going to Munich thinking we’re beaten before it starts. We’ll go there trying to do well and prove ourselves worthy opponents.“ As striker Admir Mehmedi concluded: “It’s definitely our toughest challenge on paper, but we have nothing to lose. We’ll give it our best shot.“