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FCB head for Hannover

Alert Reds look to take another step

Sandwiched between do-or-die knockout thrillers against Braunschweig and Donetsk, FC Bayern face a tricky task in the Bundesliga when they travel to face Hannover 96 on Saturday (Live in English from 15:30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio). The men from Munich are looking for a win to preserve or even extend their eight-point lead in the standings.

“There are still 33 points to play for. Wolfsburg are in top form and scoring lots of goals, so we mustn’t doze off!” urged Pep Guardiola, calling for an alert performance from his team. A victory in the Lower Saxony state capital would be another important piece in the jigsaw that is the 2014/15 campaign. “If we win tomorrow, it’s another step on the road to defending the title.”

The players have understood the boss’s warning. “Hannover haven’t played very well recently, but it still won’t be easy,” commented Robert Lewandowski, although the Pole always enjoys facing ’96: he has nine goals in nine games against the side lying 11th in the table, two of them in FCB’s 4-0 win in the reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena. “But it’ll be very, very tough,” echoed Mario Götze, “our opponents always put up stiff resistance, especially when they’re at home.” Lewandowski hopes the Reds can hit the ground running: “A goal in the first half would be important.”

Bundesliga has priority

“Hannover have had the whole week to prepare but we’ve only had two days. We saw how dangerous it can be against Braunschweig,” said Guardiola. The coach picks from the same squad that defeated second division Eintracht 2-0 in the cup on Wednesday, with the potential addition of Mehdi Benatia after the centre-back resumed training this week. However, the Spaniard is not minded to rotate for the sake of rotation: “We’ll play with the best available team.”

Nor will Guardiola countenance any talk of the league fixture serving as a kind of dress rehearsal for the Champions League Round of 16 return against Shakhtar. “Hannover defend in a completely different way compared to Donetsk, so we’ll attack in a different way,” explained the coach, reminding his audience that the Bundesliga remains “the most important trophy.” Guardiola ordered his men to forget the Ukrainians for now: “The most important game is on Saturday!”

Pre-match news from Hannover 96

  • Unavailable: Markus Miller (rehab after knee OP), Andre Hoffmann (rehab after knee OP), Lars Stindl (suspended)
  • Coach Tayfun Korkut: “You always have a small chance in a Bundesliga match, I’m certain of this. We’ll do everything we can to make it a bigger chance in the course of the game.”