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‘Never easy in Cologne’

Focused FCB primed for Köln challenge

It is often-discussed in football but has never been seen. The only certain thing about it is that it is all in the head. In short, it is a mental switch, and when FC Bayern travel to face FC Köln on Saturday (Live in English from 15:30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio), the ability to throw that switch will play a decisive role. The Reds must move on rapidly and completely from the Champions League thriller against Juventus and the impending quarter-final clash with Benfica and focus exclusively on the side lying ninth in the Bundesliga. “It’s never easy in Cologne. The fans will get right behind their team. We need to be totally focused on the match,” advised David Alaba.

Sporting director Matthias Sammer echoed the call for full concentration. The secret was not to be carried away on a wave of euphoria after reaching the last eight in Europe’s premier club competition “only to stumble as we go about our daily business. It happens relatively often if you’re not clear-headed.” Pep Guardiola also ordered his troops to put Juventus behind them. “We have to think about the next match now.”

FCB also know there is not much margin for error in the Bundesliga title race. “A five-point lead over Dortmund is nothing,” noted Guardiola, “the players are aware of the situation: every match is a final, in the Champions League and also in the Bundesliga.” Sammer took a similar view: “We can’t afford to hand out presents.”

Robben sidelined, Martínez set to return

Bayern expect Köln to play defensively while waiting to launch counter-attacks, just like in FCB’s 4-0 victory in the reverse fixture. “It's going to be a tough match. Köln have great quality in defence,” commented Guardiola. The injury roster has not increased since the match against Juventus. Besides Jérôme Boateng and Holger Badstuber, Arjen Robben is still missing with a groin problem. “Arjen has no major injury, but he can't play tomorrow,” revealed the FCB coach. On a positive note, Javi Martínez is set to return after being sidelined for several weeks. “Javi is fit and okay, he's free of pain and optimistic.”

The focus was on regeneration in the final training session in springlike sunshine on Friday lunchtime, only 38 hours after the 120-minute battle against Juventus. “Everyone was very tired. But I don't think we have major problems. Our legs would be heavier if we'd lost against Juventus,” said Guardiola, who knows he can count on his team. After all, the Bavarians have won all of their seven Bundesliga matches following Champions League encounters this term, scoring 22 goals and conceding one. Clearly, the Reds know how to throw that all-important mental switch.

Pre-match news from FC Köln:

  • Unavailable: Kevin Vogt (bruised foot)

  • Coach Peter Stöger: "The lads are really looking forward to it. They're all fired up and talking to each other the whole time about how we could cause problems for Bayern. We have to try and create chances via our transitions and counter-attacking game.“