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First versus third

Pep: Fans can help us beat Gladbach

It’s been another busy week at FC Bayern, with a player trip to CeBIT, a visit from senior DFB officials, Holger Badstuber’s recall to the Germany squad, Pep Guardiola’s Champions League scouting mission to Spain, the quarter-final draw in Europe’s elite club competition, and then the fascinating solar eclipse. However, after a period with a match every three or four days, the focus at the Säbener Strasse was training. “It’s always good to get a full week of training,” mused Mario Götze, “it’s come at the right time.” Well indeed, as Borussia Mönchengladbach visit Munich on Sunday (Live in English from 17:30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio).

A 75,000 capacity crowd will pack the Allianz Arena for the meeting between the leaders and the side in third – the pair are also the Bundesliga’s best passing and defensive teams. “Gladbach are very good opponents,” acknowledged Arjen Robben, “it’s exactly what we need given what’s coming up in the next few weeks.” After the international break, FCB travel to Dortmund and then Leverkusen (in the DFB Cup) before the Champions League quarter-finals.

Sunday’s visitors the Foals are tough to beat: they have lost only five league matches compared to Bayern’s one and Wolfsburg’s four, so Sunday’s match is a very useful test going into a crucial April programme. “They’re very, very well organised. They’re a tough team to unpick,” commented Matthias Sammer. Guardiola has not forgotten a pulsating goalless draw in the reverse fixture: “They’re a very good team. They’re superbly organised in defence and their wingers are very good.”

Benatia banned

The FCB coach reckons he has a special trump up his sleeve as he seeks a win this time round: “We need our fans’ support,” declared Guardiola, who also has a few more selection options compared to last week, Robben being one of them. “I’m totally up for it again,” said the Dutchman, who missed last Saturday’s 4-0 win at Bremen with a trapped nerve. Xabi Alonso returns from suspension, but Mehdi Benatia serves a one-match ban.

FCB are on a roll after six Bundesliga victories on the bounce with 27 goals scored and only two conceded, but the visitors are not short of confidence themselves as they are undefeated in five and will field a full-strength team. “We’re not afraid of Bayern. We’re good too,” stated coach Lucien Favre, “I’m looking to take something from Munich.” The respected Swiss boss aims to deploy a “high defensive line” and “rapid transitions.” Bayern know what to expect – and are looking forward to it. “They’re not up at the top by accident,” noted Götze, “I think it could be a very, very good game.”