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FCB aim to continue fine streak

With the last international break of the year done and dusted, FC Bayern now enter the final spurt in the Bundesliga before the Christmas break. The German record champions have a total of eight matches, including five league fixtures, in the upcoming four weeks before they take a well-deserved winter breather. The table-toppers start off with a tricky encounter away to Schalke 04 on Saturday evening (Live in English from 18.30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio).

“Schalke are still among the strongest teams in the league, so it's a top clash,” declared FCB skipper Philipp Lahm before the match against the side lying fifth in the table. The Reds, unbeaten so far in this season's Bundesliga campaign, aim to continue their run and extend their lead at the top of the standings before the Christmas break. “One thing is clear: we travel there intending to take the three points,” revealed Lahm. “We want to play as we always have recently. Then it's usually clear who’ll win.”

Guardiola issues warning

This objective aside, the Bavarians want to restore normality bit by bit one week after the Paris terror attacks. “It's not easy, not for me, not for anyone. We're humans. If something like this happens it's hard to accept it, to analyse it, to interpret it,” commented coach Pep Guardiola on Friday ahead of the final training session at the Säbener Strasse facility. “But we have to go on living our lives.”

Guardiola has prepared his players with the same care as usual, using detailed video analysis and drills that prepare his team for Schalke's style of play. “We’ll focus 100 percent on our job,” declared Guardiola, adding a strong word of warning: Schalke are “one of the most dangerous teams in the league,” as they have “many alternatives” at their disposal, mainly in the forward line.

Schalke 'totally fired up'

“They have a young and very talented team. They're able to hurt their opponents,” stressed Thomas Müller. “I hope we can live up to the form we had before the international break,” the forward added. Aside from Thiago, who is sidelined with a knee injury, all the players have returned from international duty without further injuries, so that Guardiola has 17 outfield players and three goalkeepers at his disposal.

Winless in six, Schalke “have their backs to the wall in front of their own fans,” Müller told News. The Royal Blues will act accordingly at home: “We have to play with heart and soul and try to turn in a near-flawless display,” stressed Schalke coach Andre Breitenreiter. “FC Bayern are one of the best teams in the world, with lots of individual quality. Every mistake is punished mercilessly.”

The last two matches ended in 1-1 draws, and Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes scored both goals against FCB. The world champion is set to return for the clash. Despite a fractured hand he is “available again. The brace on his hand will not hinder him,” declared Breitenreiter. The Royal Blues boss said his players have been “fully concentrated and focused in training. We’re definitely fired up for the match.”