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First versus last

Paderborn clash: FCB can strike first in title race

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On Friday night, FC Bayern kick off Bundesliga Matchday 23, welcoming basement boys SC Paderborn 07 to the Allianz Arena (follow the match from 20:30 CET with our live updates at fcbayern.com). Bayern are clear favourites, but Hansi Flick and his team are happy to accept that pressure: "That's the case in almost every game," said the head coach.

First things first

Paderborn are the immediate opponents, but perhaps Bayern have Chelsea in the back of their minds? Before the match against one of this year's promoted sides, the Reds will not be thinking about the important Champions League last 16 first leg at Chelsea next Tuesday. "When you're still in three competitions, you have to take it game by game. Every game must be played separately, and right now our focus is on the Bundesliga," explained Flick, confirming that the team will "concentrate" on Friday's game and "do their job". In an ideal world, that would see Bayern extending their lead at the top of the table to four points, putting pressure on the chasing pack.
 

The first fixture this season in Paderborn saw Bayern win 3-2. Serge Gnabry, Philippe Coutinho and Robert Lewandowski were all on the scoresheet for the record champions

The opponents

According to many experts, the underdogs from East Westphalia started the season with, at best, an outside chance of staying up. After initially struggling, however, Steffen Baumgart's team seem to have finally arrived in the Bundesliga. Since the beginning of December, Paderborn have taken 11 points from nine matches and more than tripled their points haul from the first 13 games of the season. Although SCP are still bottom of the table, they are only one point behind the relegation playoff place, so anything seems possible - and head coach Baumgart has great faith in his side before their match against the league leaders: "When Bayern get into full swing, it will be an experience. If we manage to stop this, we might be able to carve out an opportunity or two."

The selection situation

Flick will be forced into making some changes to his starting line-up on Friday: "We'll have to make two changes," the coach declared on Thursday, referring to Jérôme Boateng and Benjamin Pavard, both of whom are ineligible to play against the men from East Westphalia. Both players have picked up their fifth yellow card of the season, and thus a one-match suspension. As a consequence, new boy Álvaro Odriozola is a cert to feature, with the 54-year-old head coach stating that "he will play". Otherwise, according to Flick, "everyone else is on board", with only long-term absentees, such as Javi Martínez (muscle injury), Niklas Süle (who's started to run in training after suffering an ACL rupture earlier in the season) and Ivan Perišić (ankle injury) all still missing. 

Winter signing Álvaro Odrizola made his debut for FC Bayern in the DFB Cup last 16 match against Hoffenheim (a 4-3 win) at the beginning of February and now is a shoe-in for the match against Paderborn: "He will play on the right side, that's his position," Hansi Flick revealed on Thursday.

What the coaches say 

Hansi Flick: "Paderborn are better than their position suggests. They want to play football, that's what distinguishes them from many teams in the Bundesliga. What Steffen [Baumgart] has done with his team is simply great. They try to play out from the back and have real pace up front. If you give them room, they're capable of taking advantage of it. We have to be wide awake and assert our quality on the pitch."

Steffen Baumgart (SC Paderborn 07): "Regardless of the result, it's all about giving a good performance, implementing our footballing style and then we'll see what comes of it. We're playing a team that is one of the best in the world. We'll have to do a lot to get a point. If we play OK, we'll get stung badly, but if it goes well, the guys will be able to throw a few punches back and hang in there."

The top fact 

Bayern are on a roll. Hansi Flick's team have picked up 22 out of a possible 24 points in their last eight games in the Bundesliga - the form side in the league during this period. A small fun fact: Bayern are the only Bundesliga team that are still undefeated in the second half of the season, which is at least partly true for their opponents too: Paderborn have kept up in the relegation dogfight since the turn of the year thanks to their impressive unbeaten away record; picking up 4 points from two games since the winter break. 

More interesting stats and facts on the match against against Paderborn can be found here: 

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