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Derby fever

FCB fully focused on Augsburg

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The Bundesliga fixture schedule for this weekend’s 29th round of matches features no fewer than four derby clashes between local or regional rivals. Bayern are one of the eight teams involved as the champions visit Bavarian neighbours FC Augsburg on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio), when Philipp Lahm and company will not only attempt to stretch their extraordinary run of 53 straight league games without defeat, but also secure a morale-boosting result prior to the Champions League quarter-final return against Manchester United next Wednesday.

“Augsburg is important,” insisted coach Pep Guardiola prior to Friday’s final pre-match training session at the Säbener Strasse, although the boss added a rider: “Tomorrow is a very, very important game, but the match on Wednesday against Manchester is even more important.” Munich were crowned German champions ten days ago, “and we’re delighted about hitting our target,” Guardiola continued, but the top priority is now Europe’s elite club competition, with the holders determined to book a place in the semi-finals with the right second-leg result against United.

Good result ‘would boost confidence’

However, that does not mean Germany’s most successful club easing back in the run-in to the end of the league season. “It has to be a fair competition and we must show respect to our opponents, so we’ll try and win the game,” declared Guardiola, urging his men to focus fully on the FCA clash. “The best preparation for the return against Manchester is to put in a good performance at Augsburg,” agreed defender Dante, who missed the midweek trip to Old Trafford with suspension but is likely to return on Saturday against the side lying eighth.

“It’s always better if you’ve played well. You feel better after a win than a defeat,” noted Toni Kroos, hoping for a confidence-boosting result in Augsburg. However, the Munich camp are aware it will be no stroll in the park this Saturday. “We’ve played them twice and it was hard work on both occasions. It won’t be easy,” said Guardiola, who expects FCA to play in a similar way to Hoffenheim last weekend.

Augsburg below full strength

Guardiola is likely to ring the line-up changes in the Bavarian derby. “I’m going to rotate the team and the squad a little bit,” the 43-year-old announced, “we can try out a few things ahead of the United match.” The treble winners are definitely without injured trio Thiago, Holger Badstuber and Diego Contento. As always Guardiola declined to reveal his final line-up thoughts prior to the match in front of the customary sell-out crowd at the SGL Arena.

The Bayern boss will rest a handful of his players this weekend, but Augsburg counterpart Markus Weinzierl will be forced to replace half his regular team. Ragnar Klavan, Jan Moravek, Dong-Won Ji and Kevin Vogt are all injured or ill, and FCA are also without star strikers André Hahn (suspension) and Tobias Werner (facial fracture). The pair have scored 19 of Augsburg’s 40 goals so far this term.

“They’re both vital players and they’ve had a hand in plenty of goals, but we’ll try and compensate with a big team performance. Team effort is the secret of our success in any case and we have good lads ready to step up,” Daniel Baier confidently declared. The midfielder thinks the minnows can defy the odds and get a result against their illustrious neighbours. “If every single one of us believes 100 percent we can win the match, we could. It would be massive if we could be the first team to beat Bayern this season!“