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Away to Dortmund

Run-in starts here for fired-up FCB

The Bundesliga took a two-week international break but now returns for the 27th round of matches and the start of the run-in to the end of the season. Bayern open the climax to the campaign with a thriller, as the champions travel to face arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday evening (Live in English from 18:30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio). A win would mean the Reds remain at least ten points clear of second-placed VfL Wolfsburg.

“It’s all decided in April. Every game this month is a final,” declared Bayern boss Pep Guardiola prior to his team’s final pre-match training session at the Säbener Strasse facility on Friday. In the wake of the 2-0 home defeat to Mönchengladbach 14 days ago, the Catalan knows his men cannot afford any more slip-ups if they are to retain the title and collect a 25th German championship crown.

FCB below full strength

“This month is a big challenge for me,” continued Guardiola, who is battling a string of injuries that has struck at just the wrong time. Arjen Robben and David Alaba are both long-term absentees, with Franck Ribéry definitely unavailable to face BVB. There is a question-mark over Holger Badstuber, who returned from Germany duty with a sprain. In the case of the centre-back Guardiola is more than reluctant “to risk a new injury.”

“Before the match against Donetsk we had everyone except Javi Martínez fit. Fourteen days later we have a lot of problems,” remarked Guardiola, although skipper Philipp Lahm and fit-again Thiago are back on board for the 92nd edition of the “German Clásico”. Lahm picked up match practice before the international break and could be a candidate to start the BVB clash, but Thiago will manage “a couple of minutes at most,” Guardiola stated.

Boss: It’ll be a super, super game

BVB suffered a disastrous first half of the season in the league but are the fourth-best team since Christmas with 18 points since the winter break, only one less than Bayern. “They have so much quality,” warned Guardiola, “they’re a super team.” The Spaniard insisted nothing can be read into Borussia’s current tenth place, fully 31 points off the leaders. “My analysis of our opponents always ignores their position in the table.”

The contest in front of a boisterous 80,667 full house at the Signal Iduna Park will be “a super, super game” between two attack-minded teams, Guardiola commented. “We’re fighting to retain the title, and Borussia Dortmund are aiming for a Champions League or Europa League place.” As ever, the coach declined to reveal anything of his tactical thinking prior to the BVB showdown. “I have something in mind, but no concrete plans as yet,” said the 44-year-old, “but I have total faith in my players.”

Pre-match news from Dortmund

  • Unavailable: Nuri Sahin (groin), Lukasz Piszczek (knee ligaments), Oliver Kirch (knee)

  • Coach Jürgen Klopp: “We don’t regard ourselves as the equals of FC Bayern, but we’ve also never thought we don’t stand a chance. That’s the case again this time, even though we’re tenth, even though the gap in the table is massive, and even though a lot has changed compared to the past. It’s a home game, and as a rule we’ve never run up the white flag beforehand. My team is in relatively good shape and we’ll invest everything we have in the game.”