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Derby against Ingolstadt

‘A tough one’ for injury-hit FCB

Pep Guardiola has come across as remarkably relaxed in recent weeks, chatting away, smiling a lot, and offering the media occasional glimpses into his deepest thoughts. That was emphatically not the case on Friday. Guardiola took to the rostrum for the routine pre-match press conference and surveyed the room with a look of concern on his face, prompted by the club’s increasingly lengthy injury roster. For the final home Bundesliga fixture of the year against FC Ingolstadt on Saturday (Live in English from 15.30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio), the boss is without no fewer than seven potential candidates for the starting line-up.

Mario Götze, David Alaba, Juan Bernat and Douglas Costa all rate as long-term absentees, while Arjen Robben is still struggling to shake off a sprain. Adding to the misery, Franck Ribéry and Mehdi Benatia picked up injuries in the midweek Champions League meeting with Zagreb and will not play again until the New Year. “We’ve lost two more important players,” Guardiola stated.

But it is not the Bayern way to indulge in hand-wringing, as the Reds still aim to win all three remaining fixtures prior to Christmas. The league leaders go into Saturday’s Bavarian derby with Ingolstadt as clear favourites, and following last week’s first Bundesliga defeat of the campaign in Gladbach, the men from Munich are more determined than ever to set off on a new winning streak. Should they succeed on Saturday, they would claim the ‘autumn championship’ for the fifth time in a row – the unofficial title is bestowed upon the team top of the table at the midpoint of the season.

FCI’s mean defence

“We’ll build on our strength at home,” said Thomas Müller: FCB have won all 11 matches at the Allianz Arena so far this term. Guardiola refuses to allow the injury situation and the limited regeneration time since the Zagreb trip to be used as excuses. “It depends entirely on us and how focused we are,” he declared. However, Ingolstadt will be anything but a pushover.

The team coached by Ralph Hasenhüttl, who Guardiola has never personally met, are especially strong in defence and have conceded the second fewest goals in the league after Bayern. “But they don’t just pull everyone back, they press high up the field,” the FCB boss noted. Ingolstadt, currently in 11th place on 20 points, have been remarkably consistent for a club contesting their first top flight campaign: “Normally, promoted teams are dangerous at the start of a season but then fade a little,” Guardiola remarked.

“It’ll be a tough one,” agreed Müller, “they’d succeed in any league due to the way they play.” Captain Philipp Lahm feels FCI’s solid mid-table placing is “absolutely deserved,” and Manuel Neuer noted that Hasenhüttl’s men have “upset a few other teams so far.” Bayern know they will have their work cut out, and the long injury list doesn’t make the task any easier.

Pre-match news from Ingolstadt

Coach Ralph Hasenhüttl: “A defeat would be the most normal thing in the world. We’re the promoted club and the rank underdogs. But we’re in no mood to hand out gifts and we’ll give as good an account of ourselves as possible. We have plenty of respect, but we’re not afraid.”
Doubtful: Benjamin Hübner, Moritz Hartmann
Unavailable: Alfredo Morales, Konstantin Engel, Danilo Soares, Markus Suttner