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David against Goliath

Reds wary of promoted Paderborn

“We’re sold out!” These three ominous words appeared in almost all the emails despatched by the SC Paderborn ticketing section in recent weeks. The promoted club received more than 80,000 requests for admission to their biggest match of the season at home to FC Bayern on Saturday (Live in English from 15:30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio). Euphoria has gripped the college and British army town in North-Rhine Westphalia, where SCP’s Benteler Arena boasts a capacity of just 15,000. “We’re up against the best team in the world,” commented head coach André Breitenreiter, “so we should enjoy the occasion.”

However, everyone at FC Bayern is well aware that the side lying 12th in the table will not be content simply to have a good time. “They’re good, dangerous opponents who are extremely well-organised at the back,” Pep Guardiola warned on Friday lunchtime. David Alaba is also expecting a tough encounter: “It’s a tricky task and it’ll be a high-octane game. They’ll throw everything they have at us on their home ground. We have to stand up to them.”

In all likelihood, the onus will be on FCB to break down a packed defence in Paderborn, just as the Reds experienced against Shakhtar Donetsk last Tuesday - or in the reverse fixture at home to SCP, when Breitenreiter deployed a five-man rearguard at the Allianz Arena. However, Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski scored after eight and 14 minutes that day to effectively wrap up the points in a game that went on to finish 4-0.

Paderborn prepare to fight

Munich would happily accept a repeat on Saturday. The plan is to choke off the home team’s dangerous counter-attacks at source and go even more determinedly for goal, revealed Guardiola, who feels his team are in “a very good position. We’ve been outstanding so far. My gut feeling is that if we can win our matches this week in Paderborn and at home to Köln and then go on to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, we’ll have a super, super season.”

However, the Spaniard does not believe FCB can wrap up the league title as quickly as they did last year, “because I think we’ll be fighting it out with Wolfsburg through to the end.” In terms of his line-up, Guardiola is definitely without Philipp Lahm, Thiago, Javi Martínez and youngster Gianluca Gaudino (flue), while a question-mark hangs over Mehdi Benatia (sprain). On the plus side, Claudio Pizarro returns to the squad after injury.

Paderborn’s only confirmed absentee is long-term injury victim Thomas Bertels. The underdogs naturally respect their illustrious visitors, Breitenreiter acknowledged, “but we’ll resist with everything we’ve got.” SCP won 2-1 away to Hannover last weekend, “and that’s given us a lot of confidence,” the SCP boss declared. “We’re really looking forward to it.” And why not? As everyone knows, David has little to lose when Goliath is the opponent.