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Bundesliga restart

'Full throttle' for three points

Pep Guardiola cannot wait for the second half of the season to begin. “I'm very happy to have the first official match. Such a long time without football is boring,” the FCB head coach said on the eve of the Bundesliga restart away to Hamburger SV on Friday (Live in English from 20.30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio). In front of a full house at Hamburg's Volksparkstadion Bayern aim to pick up where they left off 33 days ago. “We want to take the three points,” stressed Holger Badstuber.

After a preparation period of 18 days including the seven-day Qatar training camp his troops are “prepared for the second half of the season,” commented Guardiola. “I'm very pleased with how my players have trained.” Due to the long injury roster before the winter break the Reds focused on training and had good reasons to play only one friendly, explained the Catalan. “We wanted to fine-tune our plan and our ideas.”

David Alaba, Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben are available again, but Juan Bernat, Rafinha, Mario Götze, Franck Ribéry, Mehdi Benatia and Sven Ulreich remain unavailable for selection. However, the six pros will return soon, according to a visibly pleased Guardiola, who hopes for a repetition of events after the winter break in the last two years, albeit with one reservation: “If we could play the same second half of the campaign as in the last two years I'd be eager to accept it. My only wish is to have the full squad fit for the Champions League semi-final.”

HSV 'very aggressive'

But first the focus is on the Bundesliga. After the second-best first half-season in the history of the league FCB are top of the standings with an eight-point edge over Borussia Dortmund. However, the championship is not yet decided, insisted Guardiola, whose calculation runs as follows: if the Bavarians win their first nine league fixtures from Friday onwards, including matches away to Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Dortmund, “it would be a major step towards the championship.”

First the German record champions travel to face their north German rivals. FCB won the reverse fixture 5-0, but tenth-placed HSV under Bruno Labbadia are not the same as before. “It's a completely different team,” warned Guardiola: “They attack very aggressively.”

“It's not going to be easy,” agreed Badstuber, “we have to play as a team, then we'll have a good chance.” The Bavarians cannot be in top form from the start, according to Badstuber; but peak form is only a matter of time. “It's about the games. You learn the most by playing games,” the centre-back said, declaring a motto for the restart: “Go full throttle!”

Pre-match news from Hamburg:

Coach Bruno Labbadia: “We'll encounter one of the best teams in Europe. We have to play as a team. We have to be superbly organised, disrupt their play really well, keep up our discipline, and be aggressive. We need a really good day.”

Unavailable: Emir Spahic (torn abdominal muscle), Albin Ekda (ruptured tendon)

Doubtful: Pierre-Michel Lasogga (shoulder), Johan Djourou (knee)