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Run-in starts

Neuer back but six out of Gladbach encounter

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It's crunch time: "The final third of the season begins. We're approaching the finish line, everyone wants to achieve their goals," Niko Kovač stressed at the press conference prior to FC Bayern's match away to Borussia Mönchengladbach (live in English on Saturday from 12:30 PM ET on our exclusive fcbayern.com ticker). The top clash is a perfect start to the decisive phase.

The Bavarians are eight points clear of Borussia in third place, and they aim to extend the gap to 11. "We absolutely need the three points," said Kovač, referring to Borussia Dortmund's match away to Augsburg on Friday evening. But the Bavarians are not distracted by that: "Our full focus is on Gladbach, the match is very important," said the FCB head coach: "We know a tough match awaits us. The atmosphere there is always great."

Six players sidelined

Kovač is confident, also because of Bayern's most recent displays. "We're having a good phase. But we must defend well and attack up front again," the 47-year-old said after clean sheets in the last two matches. The personnel situation is not as positive, as Kovač had reported on Thursday. Manuel Neuer has recovered from his cold and boarded the team bus, as did Mats Hummels and Sven Ulreich. David Alaba and Leon Goretzka had to stay in Munich, so Kovač will be without six players on Saturday. Reserve players Meritan Shabani, Wooyeong Jeong and Lukas Mai joined the squad.

Gladbach are facing similar problems and will be without Ibrahima Traoré (groin surgery), Mamadou Doucouré (torn muscle bundle), Michaël Cuisance (bruise) and Josip Drmic (torn muscle) . Raffael is rated doubtful. Besides, the Foals are struggling with a poor run of form.

Revenge for the first match

Dieter Hecking's men have only taken one point from their last three matches. They lost their last two home matches 3-0. "We have no reason to be uncertain or feel under pressure to react with defiance," said the coach, and announced: "We want to be bold and attack. But we must be efficient."

Kovač, who refused to overestimate Gladbach's last few results, issued a warning: "The results don't reflect their play. All teams have a poor run here and there. They're really strong." The men from the Lower Rhine proved that in their 3-0 victory at the Allianz Arena in the first half of the season. A tough fight awaits the Bavarians in Mönchengladbach: a perfect way to start off the final third of the season.

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