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Robben in the frame

‘Special match’ against struggling BVB

There were still 30 or so hours to go until kick-off when Pep Guardiola entered the Säbener Strasse media centre. He oozed determination, focus and optimism, but he also knows full well that Borussia Dortmund, Bayern’s opponents in the Bundesliga's biggest fixture on Saturday evening (Live in English from 18:30 / 6.30 pm CET on Twitter and FCB.tv Web Radio), are much better than their current 15th place in the standings would suggest. “They're an outstanding team. We've almost always lost to BVB at the Allianz Arena recently. They'll be at their best yet again, I'm sure of that,” the coach told Friday lunchtime's press conference.

In recent years, the situation in the table prior to Bayern versus Dortmund has seldom cast either of the teams so obviously in the role of favourites. FCB remain unbeaten in the league, but BVB have losst six of their nine fixtures so far, a remarkably poor return for a team with a perfect record after three matches in a tricky Champions League group. “They'll turn the corner in the Bundesliga at some point,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge remarked, “so we have to approach this match with our full concentration.”

Bayern fans could well witness a comeback from Arjen Robben. The winger has missed the last two matches with injury, but he is now “a little better” without regaining 100 per cent fitness, Guardiola reported. Robben has been struggling with a trapped nerve in his thigh, although he completed Friday lunchtime’s pre-match training session without any reaction.

Retaining possession will be key

Faced with Borussia's formidable counter-attacking strength, Bayern’s plan is centred on their possession-based football. “That's the only factor,” declared Guardiola, who has at no stage contemplated ordering his troops to play more defensively: “If we play well, we'll win. But if we give the ball away it'll be dangerous.” Philipp Lahm called for “a good defensive performance. That would give us a good chance.”

Guardiola put the meeting into its proper context: “It's not a final! It's about three points and nothing more.” The coach said he was fully aware of the “huge rivalry” and the importance of the match to the fans, but stressed that the title has never been won in October. “These are very, very good opponents, and that's what makes it a special match,” the Spaniard intoned, “we want to win and keep our rivals at bay.”

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