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Last push before break

Bayern target ‘a big finish’ in Mainz

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Pep Guardiola talked a lot, laughed, joked, and gave flu-ridden media director Markus Hörwick a consoling pat on the back. The Bayern coach was in high spirits on the last working day of the year at the Säbener Strasse, where the men from Munich were preparing for the last match of the first half of the league programme away to FSV Mainz on Friday (Live in English from 20:30 / 8.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). The objective is to summon up the last reserves of collective energy and go into a well-deserved vacation on the back of a win.

“We have a huge opportunity to go into the winter break with a big lead,” Guardiola told the final pre-match press conference of the calendar year. The Spaniard is aware of the huge physical and mental toll exacted by the last few weeks, and the selection situation is “difficult,” the 43-year-old acknowledged. However, continued the Bayern coach “there’s no reason why we shouldn’t try to win the game in Mainz too. That’s what I’m looking for from my team!”

“We’re up against it,” declared sporting director Matthias Sammer. “But I’m sure everybody who’s available will give their all once again.” Arjen Robben confirmed that analysis: “It looks like they’re all dropping out, with one after the other getting injured. But we’ll dig deep. We’ll field a good team that will give 100 percent to win the game.”

'Take it to the limit again'

The cover has never been so thin. The long-term absentees are joined on the sidelines by Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski (both have ankle in juries) and the pair are ruled out of the final game before the winter break. That also applies to Sebastian Rode who is suffering from a bout of flu. And hopes of a rapid return to fitness for Mehdi Benatia (groin) were quickly dashed. “These are factors you wouldn’t wish on yourself,” said Sammer.

Whoever goes onto to the pitch for FCB will face a tough test at Mainz. “Thomas Tuchel did a great job in the past and Kasper Hjulmand is carrying on where he left off. They’re versatile and use different systems,” said Guardiola who called on his players to “immediately adapt” to the situation on the pitch. And Robben knows from his own experience that it is “never easy” in Mainz.

“We know we’re facing an opponent under pressure,” said Sammer in assessing the team lying eleventh in the Bundesliga. Mainz coach Hjulmand, whose team have won none of their last eight games, confirmed: “These games are clearly a mental thing. We need a result.” And Bayern? The sporting director set out the approach: “We’ve got to be serious and take it to the limit again - and then we’ll finish on a high.”

Pre-match news from FSV Mainz

  • Unavailable: Zentner (rehab training), Bell (knee), Bungert (hip), Baumgartlinger (knee), Hofmann (rehab), Moritz (back), Nedelev (metatarsal)
  • Doubtful: Noveski (hamstring)
  • Coach Kasper Hjulmand: “We need desire, passion and aggression. We’ll have to work together if we’re to spring a surprise.”