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Positive prognosis

Champions resume title quest

The mid-season break is almost over and points are at stake again when Bayern return to competitive action away to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday evening (Live in English from 8.30 pm CET on twitter and FCB.tv Web Radio). Just over a month since the Club World Cup final and 41 days after their last Bundesliga clash Germany’s biggest club are determined to keep collecting points and wins in the fixture marking the start of the second half of the 2013/14 campaign. 

“We’re ready,” announced Pep Guardiola on Thursday, “the team is fit and all the players have trained well.” For the head coach and his men the Bundesliga restart fixture is “like a new beginning.” The prognosis for 2014 is good, Guardiola continued: “We’re in contention in all competitions and that’s what I wanted.” FCB lead the league by seven points but the Catalan refuses to regard that as a comfortable cushion. “We have a long, long way to go if we’re to win the Bundesliga,” he warned.

Bayern take the first steps on that journey away to Gladbach. “We must be aware it won’t be a stroll,” admonished Thomas Müller as he and his team-mates prepare to take on the only team apart fromBayern not to lose at home this season. “I’m expecting a very, very tough match,” commented Dante in the build-up to the meeting with his former club, “we have to be mentally sharp.”

Getting in where it hurts

Guardiola called on his men to show plenty of passion. “We’re up against a very, very good team” at Borussia Park, “where they’ve won all their matches apart from a solitary draw. It will be a big test for us and we’ll see whether the work we’ve done in the winter break was any good.“ Müller echoed the coach’s call: “If we want to win in the Bundesliga we have to get stuck in where it hurts.”

In terms of team selection there are question marks over one or two of the Munich players. Franck Ribéry has “some pains in his legs,” Guardiola reported. The European player of the year will be assessed in a fitness test on Friday. As for Thursday’s birthday boy Arjen Robben, Guardiola reckons “he’ll come with us,” and captain Philipp Lahm should be fit to play: “He’s trained well,” the head coach said. Bastian Schweinsteiger is definitely out of contention but Guardiola is hoping the vice-captain “will be part of it again as soon as possible.” Javi Martínez is the other major doubt and will almost certainly not be in the squad.

Tough to beat

Gladbach coach Lucien Favre will field a near full-strength line-up with only Tony Jantschke and backup centre-half Roel Brouwers definitely out. “We’re looking forward to the match against one of the best clubs in the world,” said respected Swiss boss Favre, urging his men to show courage. “We respect them but we mustn’t be afraid. We have to be brave and play our football.“

The Borussia boss “is extremely well informed and always has a plan,” remarked Müller respectfully. “It’s never been easy at their place.” Dante is prepared for a fierce battle, because “every player in the world wants to beat Bayern. Gladbach are no different.“ However, the Brazilian is confident he and his team-mates can cope: “If we’re focused, get our preparations right and have everyone fit, we’re very tough to beat.”