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Neuer and Alaba sidelined

FCB aim for ‘great display’ at Braunschweig

Top versus bottom, the champions against relegation candidates - there could hardly be two more diametrically opposed teams on Matchday 31 in Bayern’s away game at Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). While a defeat for the hosts would sink them further into the relegation mire, the reigning and confirmed new champions of Germany are looking to fine-tune their performance levels ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final tie at Real Madrid.

“We need to produce a great display and move up to top gear,” declared Arjen Robben, who is convinced the game against the team from Lower Saxony is “possibly more important” than the DFB Cup semi-final against FC Kaiserslautern last Wednesday: “We need to be ready for the match against Real.” Thomas Müller added: “We face some challenges on Saturday - to put on a good performance, to get back into the groove, and get used to playing well again. We’ll be in with a good shout in Madrid if we can do that.”

Head coach Pep Guardiola shares that opinion. “We need to have a good game against Braunschweig to be able to perform in Madrid,” said the Spaniard before the final pre-match session at the Säbener Strasse training ground on Good Friday. “We’ve got to focus on playing our game again, both up front and at the back, to put us in the right mood for the Madrid match.” The encounter with the Lower Saxony side fighting to stay up comes at just the right time. “We know how important the game is for Braunschweig.”

FCB with reduced options

Guardiola has considerable problems in terms of his team selection with nine players ruled out this weekend. The match comes too early for Manuel Neuer as he recovers from a calf injury so Lukas Raeder will again be in goal, just as he was for the cup semi-final against FC Kaiserslautern. Left-back David Alaba has been laid low with a cold. Rafinha and Toni Kroos are both suspended and Thiago, Xherdan Shaqiri, Holger Badstuber, Diego Contento and Tom Starke are all on the injury list.

“I’ve only got 14 players available,” said Guardiola, who still aims to field the best possible starting eleven. “I’m not in a position to rotate the squad at the moment.” With the Bayern Reserves not playing in the Regional League this weekend, midfielder Alessandro Schöpf and defender Benno Schmitz have been included in the squad for the match against Eintracht.

Braunschweig looking for a miracle

Bottom-of-the-table Braunschweig almost certainly need all three points against FCB to keep alive their hopes of avoiding the drop. And, even though the game against the champions appears to be mission impossible, hopes of a surprise and staying up remain undiminished. “We’re still in with a chance of a miracle,” said Eintracht coach Torsten Lieberknecht. His defensive stalwart Deniz Dogan sees a win against Bayern as a potential shock result, “but we believe it’s possible.”

Eintracht have picked up 18 of their 25 points in front of their own fans and are unbeaten at home in the last five games. “We just need to build on our form at home and put on a combative and aggressive performance,” stated attacker Orhan Ademi. “I think we have a chance against Bayern with our fans behind us.” Braunschweig are missing their top goalscorer, as nine-goal Domi Kumbela has a muscle injury, and defender Ermin Bikakcic is serving a one-match ban.