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Trip to Wolfsburg

FCB set for 'one of the most crucial weeks this season'

The omens are promising: the perfect record on the club's birthday; Robert Lewandowski's five goals in nine minutes in the reverse fixture last September; the impressive 3-1 cup victory in October. What can possibly go wrong when FC Bayern travel to face VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday (Live in English from 15.30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio)? Plenty, Pep Guardiola warned: “That’s all history. This is a new match, and a completely different one,” stressed the FCB head coach the day before the top clash. “We need our best performance if we’re to win in Wolfsburg.”

After all, FC Bayern cross swords with last season's runners-up, the cup holders and a Champions League last sixteen side. “They're one of the best teams in the Bundesliga,” said Guardiola, not deceived by the fact that the Wolves lie eighth in the table. Instead, the Catalan demanded full focus from his troops, who take on their next challenge only four days after the enthralling Champions League match against Juventus.

'One of the most crucial weeks'

Turin is also history now, so the Bavarians have to concentrate completely on the Bundesliga for the time being, according to Guardiola. The champions face Wolfsburg on Saturday, Mainz on Wednesday, and Dortmund next Saturday, three challenging encounters in the space of only eight days. Guardiola spoke of “one of the most crucial weeks this season. If the results are good we're taking a big step forward.” Specifically, a step towards an unprecedented fourth German championship title in a row.

The Reds travel to Lower Saxony in the first of those matches. “We know each other very well,” the Bayern coach commented, listing the home team’s known qualities: good switches of play, strong performers on the wings, match practice, and experience. It will be crucial to neutralise the threat posed by Julian Draxler and Max Kruse, Guardiola warned: “It's not easy to control them.” The Wolves are without almost a dozen sick or injured players (see below), but the first-team regulars are hardly concerned.

The personnel situation at FCB has improved over the last few weeks. Only Javi Martínez, Jérôme Boateng and Holger Badstuber are still injured, while Rafinha serves a one-match ban. Franck Ribéry, Mehdi Benatia and Mario Götze have recovered from injury, and the latter could make his first appearance after almost five months on the sidelines.

Pre-match news from Wolfsburg:

Coach Dieter Hecking: “You always want to test yourself against the best in football, and we have that opportunity on Saturday. We have to draw on our strengths, try to attack and hold our own. We can’t only be chasing shadows, although we know you can’t ever achieve much against Bayern. We face a task requiring much more work than normal.”

Former FCB defender Dante: “The team that runs out on Saturday have to give everything. You have to enjoy games like these, throw yourself into every challenge and complete every pass.”

Unavailable: Diego Benaglio (bruised ribs), Carlos Ascues (knee surgery), Jannes Horn (suspended), Sebastian Jung (cruciate), Daniel Caligiuri (hamstring), Josuha Guilavogui (hip), Paul Seguin (ankle surgery), Bruno Henrique (flu), Bas Dost (metatarsal), Nicklas Bendtner (flue)

Doubtful: Koen Casteels (flu and bursitis), André Schürrle (groin)