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Ribéry and Shaqiri sidelined

FCB wary of ‘wounded’ Schalke

A week without a Tuesday or Wednesday fixture is always a good thing for the Bayern stars. They started the week with two days off but then completed three punishing training sessions, all of this accompanied by springlike temperatures and sunshine in Munich. The stage is perfectly set for the home meeting with Schalke on Saturday (Live in English from 6.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). “We’ve been unbelievable in training and I’m extremely happy,” an admiring Pep Guardiola said on Friday, “I hope it’s a good game and we play well.”

Visitors Schalke fell to a sobering 6–1 home defeat against Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid on Wednesday, hardly the ideal preparation for a trip to undefeated Bundesliga leaders Bayern. But the Reds remain wary. “That kind of defeat wounds your pride,” commented Guardiola, “Schalke didn’t lose to just anyone, but to one of the best teams in the world.”

Indeed, with the exception of the heavy loss to Cristiano Ronaldo & Co, the men from Gelsenkirchen have made a good start to the New Year and are second only to Bayern in terms of league points gained in 2014. “They have plenty of great players. If we don’t play well, they’re capable of beating us,” warned Guardiola. Manuel Neuer reckons his former club are “hungry. They’re only just behind Dortmund [in the table] and want to overtake them. We know we have to take Schalke seriously.”

Franck Ribéry (recovering from surgery) and Xherdan Shaqiri (ruptured muscle) will not feature on Saturday. Both men did take part in the final pre-match training session, but Guardiola is unwilling to take any risks. “I hope they’re available again for next week’s game in Wolfsburg and then for the match against Arsenal,” the Spaniard remarked. The other men definitely out of contention are Thomas Müller (pulled hamstring) and Holger Badstuber (sports rehab after cruciate op).

Keller: We face the best

Schalke’s injury roster is a long one. Felipe Santana (sprain), Marco Höger, Dennis Aogo (both sports rehab after cruciate injuries), Jan Kirchhoff (ankle), Atsuto Uchida (sprain) and Christian Clemens (shin) are all definitely out. On the plus side, Kevin-Prince Boateng (sprain), Roman Neustädter (knee) and Sead Kolasinac (jaw) will be included in an 18-strong squad, the club announced on Friday afternoon.

“We know it’ll be incredibly tough. Bayern are unbelievably good on the ball, they attack at lightning pace and they’re deadly in front of goal. Their team is one of the best and not reigning Champions League holders for nothing,” commented boss Jens Keller prior to the squad’s departure for Munich. Schalke, Keller said, had played the second best team in Europe last Wednesday, “and now we’re playing the best.“

Bayern will not be lulled into a false sense of security by these kind statements. “We know we’re not unbeatable and it’s dangerous if that thought starts slipping from our minds,” warned Neuer. The keeper is not expecting the Royal Blues to park the bus, “because they don’t have the players just to pull everyone back and defend.” In the final analysis, it is up to Bayern to play their football and win. Guardiola: “We need to attack, work hard and try and maintain our good level and positive tension from the last few weeks.“