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'The team are focussed'

Bayern set sights on Leverkusen

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League leaders Bayern travel to fifth-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the headline fixture of Bundesliga Matchday 30 on Saturday (live ticker and free Webradio from 9:30 EST on fcbayern.com). For the reigning champions, it’s about maintaining their seven-point lead over nearest challengers Borussia Dortmund. Our preview contains everything you need to know ahead of the clash with the ‘Werkself’.

The situation

The memories of the reverse fixture are still fresh: after four wins in his first four games as coach, Hansi Flick suffered his first defeat at the hands of Leverkusen. For those who like to draw parallels, Bayern are coming into this meeting off the back of another fresh start having won all four matches since the suspension due to coronavirus. However, that should be where the story stops repeating itself.

“You can’t compare the games. We’ve made very good progress,” said Flick in Friday’s press conference, and he left no doubt as to the target for the upcoming encounter: “It’s now our fifth match since the break and we want to be successful again.” The Bayern boss certainly has cause for optimism based on his side’s recent performances – particularly on the attacking front. “The team is very focussed. We’re hungry for goals, we want to win games, and that’s how we’ll be approaching the game against Leverkusen.”

Eyeing revenge: The best images from Bayern’s final training session on Friday:

The opposition

Peter Bosz’s team have been in good form of late as they compete for one of the coveted Champions League places. With 28 points since the turn of the year, the Rhineland club are enjoying the best second half of a campaign in their history. Their young and gifted squad do sometimes lack consistency, as evidenced by the 4-1 defeat in their last home match against Wolfsburg.

The objective remains very much the same for Bosz and his men, though: “We want to be in the Champions League and we can’t afford to drop many more points in the run-in, so it’s another important game for us tomorrow. We need the points badly,” explained the Dutch coach on Friday.

Team news

Flick confirmed on Friday that Thiago will return to the squad, fuelling hopes that the Spanish midfielder will be involved at the BayArena having returned to full training during the week. “The quality he has would benefit any team. Let’s wait and see,” added Flick. However, for long-term casualties Niklas Süle (rehab after ACL tear), Corentin Tolisso (ankle surgery) and Philippe Coutinho (rehab after ankle surgery), the game will come too soon.

Thiago took full part in Friday’s training session and is an option against Leverkusen, according to Flick.

What the coaches say

Hansi Flick: “The way we’re playing shows we’re going in the right direction. We’re hungry for goals, we want to win games, and that’s how we’ll be approaching the game against Leverkusen. They play nice football and they’re very effective at the moment, so we need to make sure we offer them as few chances as possible. They have very fast players, as we found out in the reverse fixture. These are the things we need to stop.”

Peter Bosz, Bayer 04 Leverkusen coach: “We’re preparing for this game as we always do: we’re focussing 95 per cent on ourselves and five per cent on the opposition. That five per cent is a lot of fun – as a lover of football, I’m enjoying the football that Bayern are currently playing. They track back well, they press the ball well and have individual players with tremendous quality. If we’re to get anything out of it, we need to all believe in it, be brave and implement our game plan fully.”

Top fact

Bayern’s attacking machine is running like clockwork under Flick. The 61 goals that the Reds have scored in the 55-year-old’s 19 league games since taking over are a new Bundesliga record. Flick also has the highest goals per game ratio of all Bayern coaches, having seen the net ripple 80 times in 25 matches in all competitions – an average of 3.2 per game. “When we have the ball, our first thought is to attack,” described Flick.

More facts and figures ahead of the away match against the Werkself

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