Munich - With just 14 outfield players available for last Saturday's match-up against Eintracht Frankfurt, you'd think Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München might have been hobbling over the finish line.
'Live, eat and sleep football'
That couldn't have been further from the truth at the packed-out Allianz Arena, however, as the defending champions moved to within three more wins of a 24th Bundesliga crown courtesy of a comfortable 3-0 success.
"We had a tough match on Wednesday in the DFB Cup, but there’s nothing better than playing in front of a full house on a Saturday afternoon with the sun shining," explained . "We’ve got a lot of quality, but it’s always annoying when players are injured. You could see today that we enjoy playing football and that we want to play and that’s the decisive thing."
For 24th birthday boy Thiago Alcantara, Bundesliga Matchday 28 was a particularly joyous occasion. The Spanish pacemaker made his first competitive start in over a year following a series of knee surgeries, his return in some ways making light of the raft of injuries to have swept through the side of late. "It was one of the nicest moments in my life," he admitted. "We live, eat and sleep for football."
'Very, very proud'
The emphasis on the collective is particularly apposite. It was a scrupulous team display that proved Frankfurt’s undoing; not just the metronomic passing of the much-missed Thiago or the effortless combination play - and goals - of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. What’s more, it was a performance that showcased Bayern’s unwavering character and desire - not to mention their enviable strength-in-depth.
"I’m very, very proud," rhapsodised Pep Guardiola after the game. "Three days after playing in Leverkusen we faced the third-best attacking side in the Bundesliga and we controlled them and dominated the game. We’ve done very, very well, and played very good football. We have to recover now and focus on a special competition. I hope we can take on Porto with these players and that no-one else gets injured."
'Porto are a great team'
The international media have had questions pertaining to the Bavarians’ personnel problems on loop for weeks now, but - with the added bonus of returning centre-back Jerome Boateng and fit-again veteran striker Claudio Pizarro - Bayern’s sanguine head honcho has his wish and it’s essentially as you were against Frankfurt for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Estadio do Dragoa.
"It’s the last eight of the Champions League and there are no more excuses," Thiago affirmed, poised to make his first start in the competition for 13 months. "Porto are a great team - they’ve got a lot of quality, have a good reputation and fantastic players. The players available are the only ones available and we have to deal with that. We’ll try to win." Fans of a Bundesliga persuasion wouldn’t expect anything else.