Ahead of a clash between the two most successful clubs in the Bundesliga's history, Pep Guardiola was resolute in the face of defeat during midweek and was just as bullish in his pre-match press conference on Friday. “I said I was proud of my team after the Madrid match,” said Bayern's head coach. “But my pride grows more and more every time I watch it back.”
'Retain team spirit and passion'
However, though Guardiola admitted Tuesday's return leg was in the back of his mind, the tactical mastermind was quick to shift the focus onto the North-South showdown in which he called for his side to “retain the team spirit and passion that we demonstrated in Madrid”. Much like the encounter with Eintracht Braunschweig last weekend, the game against Werder is largely viewed as an opportunity to “maintain our level play”.
Toni Kroos, who is set to return to the fold after missing the 2-0 win in Braunschweig due to suspension, claimed Bayern put in their “best performance of the season” in Madrid. Yet having collected just one league win from four since clinching the Bundesliga title, the visit of Bremen, against whom the record titleholders collected an emphatic 7-0 win on Matchday 15, provides an opportunity to generate both confidence and momentum, all whilst silencing the critics.
Pep stands ground
A lack of cutting edge amongst the tiki-taka proved the main bone of contention after the Madrid match, but Guardiola was unperturbed. “Bayern brought me here to play this style of football,” stated the 43-year-old, who has no new injuries to contend with, though he will have to make do without the suspended Rafinha. “I'll decide how I'll rotate the squad tomorrow, but we can't lose our rhythm.”
Bremen head coach Robin Dutt, meanwhile, has a near full squad to choose from with Ludovic Obraniak the only definite absentee and Felix Kroos battling to be fit in time alongside captain Clemens Fritz. “If he comes through the final training session unscathed then he’ll definitely be in contention,” said Dutt, who was well aware that, irrelevant of his personnel options, his team would need to reach their “maximum performance limit” to test Bayern on Saturday.
Bremen’s brave heart
Picking up seven points in their last four domestic fixtures has all but put any fear of relegation to bed for Bremen as they seek to climb the rankings before the campaign’s conclusion. “We’ve got to try and assert ourselves in the challenges we make in order to try and prevent Bayern getting into their stride,” admitted Dutt. “After that we need to have the courage to go at them.”
Austrian international Zlatko Junuzovic shared the sentiments of the Bremen boss and was keen on his team-mates making the most of a situation in which they have nothing to lose. “We’ve got to be ready to run hard and chase the ball,” explained the midfielder, who returns from a one-match ban on Saturday. “Furthermore, we’ve got to play with bravery and a little bit of risk. It’s not often you get to perform on a big stage like against FC Bayern at the Allianz Arena. From that perspective we should be looking forward to the game without fear.”
Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Martinez, van Buyten, Alaba - Schweinsteiger, T. Kroos - Robben, Götze, Ribery - Pizarro
Bremen: Wolf - Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Caldirola, Garcia - Bargfrede - Junuzovic, Makiadi - Hunt - di Santo, Elia
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