The Bavarians are taking plenty of warm clothing with them for the first competitive fixture after the winter break. "It's cold today, it'll be cold tomorrow. It's cold for us, but also for Freiburg," Carlo Ancelotti commented on the below-zero temperatures currently prevailing in Germany, stressing that there are no advantages for either side in the Bundesliga restart on Friday (Live in English from 20.30 CET on our live ticker and FCBayern.tv Web Radio). The temperatures are no issue for the men from Munich as they "can hardly wait to be in competitive action again, with points at stake. It's about making progress in do-or-die matches," according to Philipp Lahm, who stressed that the German record champions are fired up and raring to go.
30 days after the 3-0 victory over Leipzig, including a 17-day preparation period with a training camp and three successful dress rehearsals, the Bavarians aim to pick up where they left off. "We played very well against Leipzig. Tomorrow we want to play just as well again," said Ancelotti. Matchday 17 usually marks the so-called autumn championship, the unofficial accolade awarded to the team at the top during the winter break. The midpoint of the season is late this term, but the German record champions want to top the table after the matchday nonetheless, and the prospects are good in view of a three-point edge and a better goal difference compared to pursuers Leipzig.
Vidal and Coman ready
However, a good start to the second half of the season is more important than virtual silverware. The Bavarians know "a difficult match with high intensity" awaits them against the side lying eighth in the table. "Freiburg are a good team," commented Ancelotti, "but I'm satisfied with the break. The team have worked out very well, they're in good condition both mentally and physically. We've worked hard to be ready for tomorrow. I have a good feeling."
The FCB head coach has an almost complete squad at his disposal. Thiago and Jérôme Boateng are the only players sidelined with injury. Ancelotti can count on Arturo Vidal, who sustained bruised ribs in the Telekom Cup last weekend: "I think he can play tomorrow. And Kingsley Coman is ready for tomorrow too." The Frenchman is expected to be in the squad for the first time after an 11-week injury lay-off.
Pre-match news from Freiburg
Unavailable: Marc-Oliver Kempf (meniscus surgery), Georg Niedermeier (back problem), Caglar Söyüncü (thigh problem)
Coach Christian Streich: "The times Bayern underestimated their opponents are long gone. If Bayern turn in a perfect display we have to assume we'll lose. But then again, maybe they won't play perfectly."
FC Bayern take on RB Leipzig in the last match before the winter break on Wednesday (Live in English from 20.00 CET in our live ticker and on FCBayern.tv Web Radio), and the encounter between the German record champions and the Bundesliga new boys is also a showdown between the sides lying first and second in the table. "The top clash in German football at this point: who would have thought it at the beginning of the season?" commented Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Carlo Ancelotti called the encounter "a fantastic match for everyone who loves football. It's important, but not decisive. But we want to win of course."
With the holidays on the horizon, the Bavarians expect very tough opposition in the final match of the year. "Leipzig will make it more difficult for us than hardly any other team," said Rummenigge, calling the newcomers' displays in the first half of the season "very strong. I have the highest respect for the performances of this team and their coach."
"We must focus on our own quality"
"A decent performance won't do against Leipzig," warned Mats Hummels, who like all Bavarians and probably all football fans is surprised by the promoted side: "They've played at a very high level from Matchday 1. Nobody would have expected them to go on like this." Ancelotti agreed: "Leipzig have surprised everyone. They have a young team with lots of enthusiasm. They play as a team, with high intensity, and they're quick on the break."
Ancelotti cautioned against these strengths. "But we have to focus on our own quality rather than the opposition's," the 57-year-old stressed. "We don't need to change anything. Instead, we must control the game with our style, our identity and concentration." The Bayern head coach identified "the balance" between defence and attack as the "key factor" for a successful finale.
Lahm and Robben ready
The injury roster has not grown before the match against Leipzig. Only Jérôme Boateng, Kingsley Coman and Julian Green miss out with injury. Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm have shaken off muscular problems and reported fit on Tuesday. "Robben is okay. Lahm is okay. They exercised today. No problem." Ancelotti has a plan regarding the starting line-up, but the final decision will be made on the matchday. There will be "no revolution" in terms of the line-up, the Italian revealed.
Bayern are ready for the last big match of the year. "Small against big, promoted side against Bayern Munich: the game is wonderful for the whole German footballing family as the final match of the year," commented Thomas Müller, before concluding: "It will be wonderful for us too, provided we win."
Pre-match news from Leipzig:
Sporting director Ralf Rangnick: "In terms of individual quality, we're up against probably the best opponents we've ever faced. If we want to win we need the best performance possible. But I trust our team. Everything's optional, there's no obligation this time. Wednesday's match is a bonus game for us, we can only win in this match."
Coach Ralph Hasenhüttl: "FC Bayern are one of the best teams in the world. We'll have courage, a clear plan and lots of confidence, and we won't hide. I want our opponents to be forced to turn in more than 110 kilometres and feel on the next day they've taken on RB Leipzig. We want to make it as difficult as possible for FC Bayern."
Unavailable: Marvin Compper (ankle injury), Ken Gipson (broken ankle), Lukas Klostermann (torn crucial ligament), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (knee)
Doubtful: Marcel Halstenberg (bruised thigh), Naby Keita (thigh)
A minute’s silence will be held in tribute to the victims of the tragedy in Berlin prior to all Bundesliga matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, with all the players also wearing black armbands. “We want to signify our solidarity with all those affected, and with the citizens of our national capital,” commented German Football League (DFL) president Dr. Reinhard Rauball. “Professional football offers its deepest sympathies to the bereaved and the numerous injured, who we wish a full and rapid recovery. We are all shocked by Monday evening’s events at a peaceful Christmas market.”
3D light show and free Glühwein
The Allianz Arena crowd will be treated to a spectacular year-end show after the last home game of 2016, Wednesday’s clash between FC Bayern and RB Leipzig, in the form of an innovative and holiday-themed 3D light show lasting some 15 minutes. Before the match, all ticket holders will be handed a voucher for a free Glühwein or mug of punch, to be redeemed at the stadium catering outlets. To enjoy the festivities to the full, fans are advised to come a little earlier and leave a little later than normal.
Coman returns to the pitch
Kingsley Coman is back out on the pitch. The 20-year-old returned to the Säbener Straße training ground on Tuesday, some six weeks after sustaining knee and ankle ligament damage. Supervised by sports rehab coach Dr. Andreas Schlumberger, the France international turned in a few gentle laps of the facility as part of his recovery programme.
Costa cracker downs Darmstadt
FC Bayern won Sunday's meeting with Darmstadt 1-0, reclaiming top spot in the Bundesliga table after a tight and hard-fought match. Douglas Costa scored what proved to be the match-winner midway through the second half, driving home from fully 30 yards. The Bavarians will take heart from the ultimately deserved success before Wednesday's top clash with second-placed RB Leipzig.
The champions lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal behind a back four comprising Rafinha, Javi Martínez, Mats Hummels and Juan Bernat. Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal took up station in midfield behind Thomas Müller, Thiago, Costa and lone striker Robert Lewandowski. Rafinha replaced Philipp Lahm at short notice as the Bayern captain sustained a knock during the warm-up.
Carlo Ancelotti made four changes to the XI that downed Wolfsburg last weekend. Apart from Rafinha for Lahm, it was Hummels, Alonso and Costa replacing Juan Bernat, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry. Ribéry came on for Vidal after the hour mark, whereas Joshua Kimmich and Renato Sanches took over from Müller and Costa in the closing stages.
The 17,468 capacity crowd at Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion saw the German record champions dominate possession, but the hosts were stronger in one-on-ones and had more shots on goal at first. The first chance fell to the home team after 30 seconds, when Bayern lost possession in midfield, but Thiago blocked Rosenthal's effort. Four minutes later Darmstadt midfielder Jan Rosenthal hit the side-netting following a corner.
Bayern stuggled to knit together anything of attacking note against the minnows, the niggle factor in the contest slowly rising. Shortly before half-time Hummels lost his balance in the hosts' box following a contact with Vrancic, but match official Bastian Dankert waved away any appeals. Lewandowski then fired a free-kick over the bar from 25 yards.
Costa saves Reds
Bayern upped the pace after the interval, Müller and Lewandowski missing presentable chances. Costa came to the rescue midway through the second half, netting a sumptuous 30-yard effort via the crossbar. Neuer then saved Gondorf's free-kick and Niemeyer's rebound with ten minutes to go.
The result means Bayern have 36 points from 15 matches, topping the table ahead of RB Leipzig, who are level on points. The Reds are back in action on Wednesday, when they entertain their closest pursuers in the mouth-watering top of the table clash.