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Top versus bottom

Bayern aim to extend run against Braunschweig

A few weeks prior to the mid-season break, the injury roster at Bayern is long. Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro and Holger Badstuber are all unavailable to boss Pep Guardiola as he ponders his selection for the home Bundesliga meeting with Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm on Twitter and Web Radio). Nevertheless, the treble winners are still looking to cement their grip on first place by taking all three points against the bottom club.

“I’m optimistic. Provided we stay hungry and keep playing attractive football we’ll be heading in the right direction,” said Mario Götze after the midweek Champions League victory over CSKA Moscow. However, despite the obvious gulf between the teams at the top and bottom of the standings, the league leaders have no intention of falling victim to complacency. “We have to be careful,” warned Arjen Robben, aware of the ever-present risk of underestimating the underdogs.

Taking nothing for granted

Manuel Neuer feels Braunschweig will put up stern resistance. “They’ve not played Bayern in Munich for a long time. They’ll be extremely motivated. Anything could happen,” the keeper pointed out. FCB and Eintracht last crossed swords in Munich in the Bundesliga almost 30 years ago with the home side winning 3-0. Braunschweig were relegated at the end of that season and spent almost three decades in the second and third divisions, but they sensationally fought their way back into the top flight last summer. Torsten Lieberknecht’s team have managed just two wins from their 13 games to date.

“But they won away to Wolfsburg and against Leverkusen, and only lost narrowly to Dortmund and Schalke. They’ve done very well against the strongest teams,” noted Guardiola, warning that nothing can be taken for granted on Saturday, especially as the visitors have had “the whole week to prepare for meeting us.” By contrast, FCB spent three days on a gruelling trip to the wintry Russian capital. “I don’t yet know what condition my players will be in,” commented the Spaniard.

Realistic approach in Braunschweig

Of course, despite Guardiola being without half a dozen full internationals, his squad for Saturday will still be brimming with star names and would normally comfortably cope with Braunschweig. If so, FCB would move onto 39 league matches without defeat. Mario Mandzukic and Diego Contento are back in contention after injury, with starlets Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and midweek debutant Julian Green also set to feature in the squad.

Confronted with the reality of Bayern’s exceptional form, the mood at the promoted club from Lower Saxony is one of brutal realism, as no-one honestly expects Braunschweig to take anything from the game. “They have no weaknesses. they have a solution to every situation,” boss Torsten Lieberknecht said admiringly, “calling it a labour of Hercules is to understate the case.” Lieberknecht is without injured duo Jan Hochscheidt and club captain Dennis Kruppke.

However, the 1967 Bundesliga champions are by no means conceding defeat before a ball has been kicked. “We’re not running up the white flag, but we have to be realistic. It definitely won’t be a pleasant day out on Saturday,” observed Lieberknecht. “The Bundesliga has been a huge challenge for us up to now, and this game is the biggest challenge of the lot. I’m not expecting anything superhuman from my players. I just want every man to play to the very best of his ability,“ the Eintracht coach concluded.