Munich - The pained expressions on the faces of some of the FC Bayern München players said it all as they emerged from the changing room into the freezing afternoon air at the club’s Säbener Straße complex for their first training session back in Germany following a nine-day jaunt in the Middle East.
Bayern took an overnight flight back to Munich on 17 January and after resting on Sunday, the players - wrapped in scarves, hats and gloves to fend off the chill - set about the tasks assistant coach Lorenzo Buenaventura set them with gusto, with Pep Guardiola watching eagle-eyed from the sidelines.
Long-standing absentees Philipp Lahm, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez played no part in the session, while Mario Götze and Medhi Benatia were the only other players missing from the 21-man first-team party, although the latter duo did undergo individual exercises in an effort to shake off adductor and back complaints respectively.
, recent returnees from injury themselves, were both able to complete the session unscathed. After Buenaventura gave brief instructions to the group, in impressive German, the Bayern players began a series of stretching, balancing and strengthening exercises for around 15 minutes, before boyish shouts of excitement filled the air when they moved on to the ‘boxes’: a keep-ball drill played in a confined space.
and Co. up close as they pinged the ball around at a furious pace in an approximately five metre by five metre area, with two players in the middle desperately trying to intercept, it was plain to see why the Bavarians are unbeaten this season. They regularly reached a tally of between 35 and 40 one-touch passes, as
gleefully reminded his colleagues in the middle by loudly keeping count. The only dampener on an intense training session, in which players threw themselves whole-heartedly into tackles, was when Schweinsteiger limped off early, clutching his right boot in his hand after receiving a knock on his ankle, although it is not thought to be a serious injury. The rest of the squad proceeded to the final segment of the session, a series of interval running exercises across the length of the pitch.
Ready to go
It was an impressive demonstration of muscle-flexing, and having already won two friendlies by a 4-1 scoreline this calendar year, it is impossible not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the club's next friendly opponents VfL Bochum, whom they face this coming Friday. Regardless of the outcome of that game, Bayern already look primed and ready to defend their Bundesliga lead when they travel to VfL Wolfsburg for the
curtain raiser on 30 January. Jonathan Stockitt reporting from Säbener Straße