Created on 07-03-2014 at 15:35 PM
Pep Guardiola had good reason to be cheerful. The final pre-match training session ahead of the visit to VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and FCB.tv Web Radio) gave the Bayern head coach the chance to welcome his whole squad with the exception of Holger Badstuber. That’s a first in the current campaign. A mini tournament was played with great passion as the players fought hard for every inch of the pitch. “That's good for me. I've got more options now,” declared Guardiola.
The coach can only include 18 players in his squad. That means there will be a few tough decisions to make. There was good news for the boss this week with Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller and Xherdan Shaqiri all returning from injury, perfect timing for the busy period of fixtures ahead. Guardiola: “The Wolfsburg game is a big, big test ahead of our match against Arsenal.”
VfL are currently fifth in the table and still aiming to secure a Champions League spot. Guardiola is ready for a “big challenge - particularly as they lost their last game 6-2.” It was certainly a bad day at the office for Wolfsburg away to Hoffenheim last weekend, but FCB are not prepared to take anything for granted. “I'm sure Dieter Hecking has analysed this game in detail. They will be planning to put on a great display against us,” warned Guardiola.
Mandzukic: I had a great time
Wolfsburg coach Hecking is calling on his team to avoid the temptation of throwing in the towel before the game kicks off. “We need to be on our toes and make the most of our chances,” he demanded, “I hope it's an open game where we can commit everything we've got. You need to be right on top of your game to beat Bayern. Everybody needs to show what they can do.”
FCB will be at full strength, but the Wolves are missing two key players in former Bayern man Luiz Gustavo (one-match ban) and Christian Träsch (three-match ban). Nevertheless, Wolfsburg have a “very good team with lots of quality,” said Robben, who made his very first appearance for Bayern against VfL following his move from Real Madrid four and a half years ago. “Those are great memories,” said the Dutch international.
Mario Mandzukic has an even closer connection to VfL. Bayern's top scorer used to play for the Wolves two years ago before signing for the Reds. “I'm looking forward to going back to Wolfsburg and meeting up with friends. I had a great time,” the Croat reported to FCB.tv before adding: “I'm sorry VfL but I hope we win the game.” According to Guardiola, that would represent “another step towards retaining the title” - and perfect preparation for the crunch clash with Arsenal.