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Focus and passion

FCB expect ‘nothing for free’ in Hannover

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The stars had a day off on Friday, and it clearly did them good: Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Co were in visibly upbeat spirits when they reported for training on Saturday following a day’s rest and relaxation. But it was only a brief break, because Pep Guardiola’s men face their next tough challenge away to Hannover on Sunday (Live in English from 5.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio).

“There are no more easy games, and that includes the Bundesliga,” commented Arjen Robben, calling for “the necessary focus, aggression and passion” when the league leaders visit the capital of Lower Saxony. “We have to play to our full potential because we’ll get nothing for free from any of our opponents.”

And especially not from Hannover at their HDI Arena stronghold. The team under new boss Tayfun Korkut are the league’s second best on home turf after Bayern with only one defeat, a 4-1 slip-up against Hoffenheim. “They’re very well organised,” noted Guardiola, refusing to be taken in by Hannover’s away defeats to Schalke and Mainz. The side lying 11th in the table won away to Wolfsburg, “so they’ve already beaten a very good team.”

History also provides a warning to Guardiola and his troops. “It’s like the situation with Nürnberg,“ noted the Catalan, “we’ve only won one of our last three games in Hannover. It’s a useful stat because it shows how difficult it will be.“ However, the champions have their sights set high for the trip to Lower Saxony: “We can take another step on the road to defending the title,” said Guardiola, “the championship is the most important trophy. We have to work hard towards it every day.”

Korkut promises courageous performance

The 43-year-old declined to reveal who would be in the squad for Sunday’s road trip. “We’ll decide after final training,” reported Guardiola, who is definitely without Holger Badstuber, Xherdan Shaqiri and Franck Ribéry. In his progress report on the Frenchman, the head coach said Ribéry was “getting better every day.” The European Player of the Year’s rehab programme on Saturday included intense interval sprints.

In Hannover the pre-match mood is determined and optimistic. “If we dig deep and deliver the goods we can hurt them in important areas,” declared Korkut, who will be forced into at least one change after losing shooting star Andre Hoffmann to tonsillitis, although striker Mame Diouf could be in line to start after resuming squad training following injury. But regardless of how much courage the home team actualöy show on the day, Bayern will do everything in their power to win a 14th league fixture on the bounce.