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Away to Hamburg

Robben a possible for ‘tough’ trip north

February 2014, and Mirko Slomka's first game in charge at Hamburg. Dortmund came to visit - and HSV beat the 2013 Champions League finalists 3-0, spectacularly reversing a run of seven straight defeats. But now, seven months later, the northerners have reacted to another disastrous run by replacing their coach just a few days before Saturday's home meeting with FC Bayern (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and FCB.tv Web Radio). Pep Guardiola and his men have been warned. “A new coach always wants to make an impact,” commented the Spaniard, “it'll be tough.” Sporting director Matthias Sammer echoed the thought: “I can't say we're absolutely delighted with the way the coaching situation at HSV has worked out.”

Nevertheless, Bayern are on a roll as they head north to face the team now coached by Joe Zinnbauer. The midweek Champions League victory over Manchester City was a real boost and the mood at Friday afternoon's final pre-match training session was upbeat. That was fuelled by the return of Arjen Robben, who has shaken off ankle and knee problems and made a brief substitute appearance at the end of the City clash. “I'm delighted to be back,” the Dutchman told FCB.tv.

Robben is a contender to start on Saturday but nothing has been decided yet. The club and the player are determined to avoid undue haste. “We have to be sensible because it's a long season. The most important thing for me is to avoid another setback,” Robben explained. “Arjen's trained well," reported Guardiola, “he's very important to us. I hope he's fit for our forthcoming matches.”

Ribéry sidelined

The squad for the Hamburg clash will definitely not include long-term absentees Javi Martínez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber and Thiago. Franck Ribéry (knee) is also a non-starter. Guardiola indicated he may yet choose to run through his selection options at the weekend: “It's always difficult after Champions League matches as we have so little time for regeneration.”

Bayern will not adapt their game just because they are visiting the league's bottom club, the Catalan supremo stated. “The idea is always the same: we want to dominate the match and create as many chances as possible.” The formation and tactics were ultimately not decisive, the coach said, “it's the approach and how we play.” FCB will need 100 percent commitment against what is bound to be a pumped home team.

“You have to go out and enjoy it against the best team in the world,” said HSV coach Zinnbauer, who has been promoted from the top job with the Hamburg reserves, the team he led to the maximum 24 points from the first eight fourth-tier matches this season with 27 goals scored and only five conceded. “Everyone has us down as losers and nobody believes we can take anything from the match,” the new man continued, “on paper there’s nothing easier than playing Bayern.” FCB fans will be hoping it's a different matter out on the pitch.