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'Total focus’

FCB seek to tighten grip on top spot

October the third, a German national holiday marking the reunification of the country in 1990, was a perfect autumn day in Munich with the sun beating down and temperatures at around 20°C. Playing football was even more enjoyable than usual, the pros said. “We've trained really well and we’re totally focused on the last match before the international break,” Pep Guardiola declared at the press conference on the eve of the home Bundesliga meeting with Hannover 96 on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio).

When they meet the side lying sixth in the table, Bayern are determined to extend an excellent run of five wins from their last six matches which has left the Reds at the top of the standings both in the Bundesliga and their Champions League group. “I'm very pleased with the team. The way we play has been getting better every time,” observed Guardiola. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge agreed: “If we can keep it up against Hannover, the players and coaches will more than deserve their day out at the Oktoberfest on Sunday.”

Little has changed in terms of Guardiola's selection options as he picks from the same squad as in Cologne and Moscow. Jérôme Boateng was rested against CSKA but came through final training unscathed and could return to the starting line-up. Franck Ribéry (running drills after knee problems) and Thiago (work on the ball after a ligament injury) will definitely not feature against Hannover, while Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee tendon), Javi Martínez (cruciate) and Holger Badstuber (ruptured tendons) are long-term absentees.

‘Only a snapshot’

The visitors from Lower Saxony are only four points behind FCB but are without Leon Andreasen (sprain). Hannover lost by the only goal of the game in Stuttgart last weekend, “but we've put it behind us. We now want to make it as difficult as possible for FC Bayern, although we'll have to take the few chances that come our way,” commented ‘96 boss Tayfun Korkut, who knows Guardiola from his time as a player with Real Sociedad in Spain.

FCB chairman Rummenigge is hoping the players can “maintain their stability, because we've already pulled out a nice advantage over our rivals, especially the team generally seen as our biggest threat.” Dortmund are already seven points off the pace, but Guardiola insisted there is no room for complacency. “Dortmund are capable of winning five, six, seven, eight or nine matches on the bounce. They’re our biggest rivals and they'll be back!”

“The table at the moment is only a snapshot in time," agreed Rummenigge. “We’re aware of the challenges lying in wait for us over the next few weeks.” The Hannover clash would be the perfect time for Bayern to click again in attack: the defensive unit has kept a string of clean sheets recently, but with the exception of the home clash against Paderborn, the forwards have lacked their customary effectiveness. “We know how much quality we have up front," commented Guardiola, “sooner or later we'll get back to scoring lots and lots of goals.”