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Mouth-watering prospect

Ribéry in squad for big game at Gladbach

Pep Guardiola spent Thursday and Friday working with his men behind closed doors, and although the boss spoke openly about his likely team selection on the eve of FC Bayern’s trip to face fourth-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday (Live in English from 15.30 CET on Twitter and FCB.tv Web Radio), he declined to reveal details of his tactical thinking. What is certain is that the league leaders will go all-out for victory despite the absence of six key players with injury (Alaba, Robben, Costa, Thiago, Bernat, Götze). “Both teams want to attack and play football. I’m sure it’ll be a great game,” Guardiola said.

The Spaniard could barely contain his enthusiasm prior to the clash between the Bundesliga’s two form teams: “If the folk in Germany are bored or have nothing else to do, I recommend they watch the game on TV.” Gladbach, Guardiola said, are “one of the best teams, not just this year, but in the history of the Bundesliga. I like this team, I like the way they play.”

Top at Christmas?

Naturally, the Bayern coach is even more fond of his own team, who have dropped just two points in 14 Bundesliga fixtures this term. Gladbach are unbeaten in nine, but if FCB can stop that streak and take the three points, they would be crowned ‘Autumn champions’, the unofficial title awarded to the team in first place at the midpoint of the season, for the fifth time in a row. On Friday, Guardiola emphasised “just how tough it is to produce a top-level performance every three days. We have to fight in every match.”

Fighting has been a familiar daily challenge for Franck Ribéry over the last nine months, but he has finally recovered from a persistent ankle injury. “It’s great news for us,” said Guardiola after the French wizard resumed team training. Ribéry played a full part in Friday afternoon’s final workout prior to the weekend match, prompting Guardiola to add him to the travelling party.

Franck’s return is certainly a real boost, especially with the current lack of attacking options: Guardiola basically has no real alternatives to Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Kingsley Coman at the moment. “We’re missing some important players and it’s a shame,” said the coach, “we need these players for the battles with the biggest teams. I hope they all return fit and healthy after the winter break for the most important part of the season.” For now, the fit members of the squad have a job to do in Mönchengladbach - with Ribéry’s help and support.

Pre-match news from Borussia M'gladbach

Coach André Schubert: “We know we’re playing probably the best team in the world right now on Saturday. For us to worry Bayern, we’ll need a very good day and total focus on our game plan from start to finish. We’ll have to go to the absolute limit technically, tactically and physically if we’re to resist them."

Unavailable: Ibrahima Traoré, Patrick Herrmann, André Hahn, Alvaro Dominguez, Martin Stranzl and Nico Schulz.