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Cup quarter-final preview

Coach calls for 'big hearts and passion'

Pep Guardiola’s Easter holiday brought a win at Dortmund and seasonal chocolates on Sunday, so when he addressed the press conference on the eve of Bayern’s DFB Cup quarter-final trip to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Wednesday (kick-off 20:30 CET, live on ARD and Sky in Germany), even the usually reserved Spaniard was in a light-hearted mood. What would be his game plan, reporters asked? “Maybe I’ll field eight defenders tomorrow,” quipped the FCB coach. Why is Robert Lewandowski in such great form? “He has a great coach,” Guardiola grinned.

The Easter weekend with his family clearly did the boss a lot of good, despite an ever-growing and big-name injury list at the club. Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Tom Starke and Javi Martínez were already ruled out of the cup clash, and Bastian Schweinsteiger (ankle) was declared a non-starter on Tuesday. “He won’t play, definitely not,” Guardiola announced.

“But I’m happy,” the Catalan insisted, refusing to let his head drop in the teeth of the tricky selection situation: “There can be no excuses! It doesn’t matter. It motivates me to find solutions.” The loss of gifted wide men Ribéry and Robben has a disproportionate impact: “We have to change the way we play, at least a little.” However, the fundamental philosophy of dominating possession and scoring goals remains unchanged.

'Huge challenge' awaits

Guardiola noted that his team were nowhere near as dominant as usual in the second half away to Dortmund last Saturday. “I’ve had words with my team,” he revealed, “if we play like we did in the second half in Dortmund, we won’t stand a chance. We have to try and dominate. It won’t be easy because Leverkusen play a good, aggressive pressing game.”

The Bayern boss was full of praise for Wednesday’s opponents, who are on a roll after winning five Bundesliga fixtures on the bounce with 13 goals scored and none conceded: “I’m a bid admirer of this team and their coach, and the match presents a huge challenge.” Bayer warmed up for the Bayern clash with a 4-0 thrashing of Hamburg at the weekend, coach Roger Schmidt even enjoying the luxury of resting regulars Emir Spahic and Hakan Calhanoglu. However, the Werkself (Works XI) are without suspended striker Heung-Min Son on Wednesday, as the Korean striker was sent off in the second round.

Guardiola has taken all this on board but remains confident. “At this stage of the season it’s about cool heads, big hearts and passion,” he declared, pointing out that his players had always shown exactly these qualities despite an almost nonstop diet of success in recent years. “They always run and fight! They’re always up for it! We always put our hearts into it! I’m very, very proud of my team,” the boss stated. And he also passed on at least one piece of good news, with Holger Badstuber back in contention after a sprain.

Pre-match news from Leverkusen:

  • Unavailable: Heung-Min Son (suspended), Robbie Kruse (ankle surgery)
  • Coach Roger Schmidt: “We’re in good shape. A lot of my players are in peak form at the moment. If you’re going to lay hands on a trophy, you’ve got to beat Bayern at some point, although it’s obviously a labour of Hercules. We’ll have to deploy our attacking weapons very well indeed and defend courageously.“
  • Sporting director Rudi Völler: “You have a better chance of beating FC Bayern at home than away or in the final. However, Bayern are a different calibre compared to Hamburg. We’ll need a sensational performance. All 11 to 14 players will have to go to the limit and beyond, and then we’ll have a small chance.”