Guardiola: Club World Cup second to Augsburg tie

The Spaniard believes “anything can happen” when the Bavarians visit the SGL Arena on Wednesday, while winger Arjen Robben predicts a difficult game

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has talked up the importance of Wednesday’s DFB-Pokal clash with Augsburg, claiming it is more important than the upcoming Club World Cup.

The Allianz Arena side qualified for the inter-continental tournament, which takes place later this month, having won the Champions League in 2012-13.

But Guardiola, whose Bavarians won the domestic cup competition last season to cap off their treble-winning season, thinks that the last-16 tie with Augsburg is the biggest game left in 2013 for the club.

“We still have the Club World Cup but, for me, this is the most important game before the winter break,” he told the club’s official website. “It’s like a final!

“The DFB-Pokal can be very dangerous. It’s just a game and anything can happen, especially against a team like Augsburg.

“They’re a very combative and strong team physically, they’re great on the counterattack too.”

Robben agrees with Guardiola’s assessment that their fellow Bundesliga side could pose a serious threat to their potential progress into the quarter-final stage for the 11th time in 12 campaigns.

“Augsburg have played a solid season so far,” the Dutch winger said. “Plus, they’re playing at home. This will be a difficult game.”

The clash at the SGL Arena kicks off at 20:30CET, which will be followed up by league clashes against Werder Bremen and Hamburg before die Roten jet off to Morocco for the Club World Cup.

Badstuber downbeat on World Cup hopes

After undergoing four successive operations, the German international is pessimistic about his chances of recovering in time for next summer’s tournament

Holger Badstuber has admitted that he faces an uphill battle in terms of reclaiming his place in the Germany squad for next summer’s World Cup – despite undergoing a successful knee operation on Monday.

The Bayern Munich defender, who has gone under the knife four times since tearing his cruciate ligament against Borussia Dortmund in December last year, is yet to appear for the Bundesliga champions this season.

Consequently, while he is in no doubt that he will make a full recovery from his latest surgery, he is aware that World Cup could come too early for him.

“Brazil is a long way off for me,” the 24-year-old told German magazine Focus.

However, Badstuber, who has been capped 30 times by his country, dismissed reports that he might never play competitive football again.

“The crutches are gone. With the therapy and exercises from nine until five everyday things are getting better,” he enthused.

“The doctors have reassured me over and over again that the knee will be back in great shape and leave no lasting damage.”

Hojbjerg: Guardiola cried with me over father's cancer

The youngster has revealed how the Spaniard came to his aid during a troubled time as he came to terms with his dad’s illness

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has revealed how Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola broke down in tears when he found out the midfielder’s father had been diagnosed with cancer.

The 18-year-old, who is yet to break into the Bavarians’ first team but is considered a huge talent, received the awful news that his dad had stomach cancer and was unlikely to survive in August.

Hojbjberg said the combination of Guardiola’s shoulder to cry on and club president Uli Hoeness’ assistance in getting the best medical assistance for his father have brought him back from his inconsolable brink a couple of months ago.

“I was heartbroken,” he told gathered reporters at a Danish award ceremony after being given the talent of the year accolade. “I went back to the club and I just started crying. I was completely destroyed.

“Uli Hoeness picked me up and immediately began to help me. He contacted the best doctors in Germany and got my father down here, where they began to treat him.

“Guardiola called me in and said: ‘I have heard about your father, I am extremely sorry. Let’s just talk,'” Hojbjerg added to DK Sporten. “And I just started to cry and I said I was bewildered and scared.

“Then he said to me: ‘The people you love the most and who you are closest to, you need to hold on to them, even if it costs you at work’. And then he began to cry and I did not know what to say.”

Bayern media director Markus Horwick insisted that the club have an obligation to help out Allianz Arena players when they are struggling off the pitch, such as what happened to the young Dane in the summer.

“He is part of the Bavarian family,” he told BT.dk. “If something happens to our players, we help them. We fully understood that Pierre-Emile had been in a difficult situation and therefore we intervened.

“We have a responsibility to make sure our young players are coping okay. They come to Munich not only as footballers, but as humans. If they need help, or they are sad, then it is our responsibility to care for them.”

Hojbjerg did have some good news about his father, however, whose initial diagnosis was pessimistic, as doctors now believe has a good chance of ridding his body of cancer.

“A week ago the doctors said that they think that he has a chance,” he added. “In fact, there is now a good chance that he will survive.

“I’m sure now he will. It’s great. It says a lot about the club that they were there for me and my family.”

Platini: Ballon d'Or is toughest in history

The Uefa chief joked that the voting extension was to please Cristiano Ronaldo and suggested that a Spanish player should have won after World Cup 2010

The choice between Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery for the Ballon d’Or is the toughest in history, according to Uefa president Michel Platini.

Barcelona forward Messi helped his side win La Liga with his stunning goal haul last season, but Ronaldo is the current favourite having shone bright for Real Madrid but lacks any silverware, while winger Ribery starred as Bayern Munich romped to treble success in 2012-13.

Three-time Ballon d’Or winner Platini is in no doubt as to the favourites for the Fifa accolade, who he is unable to separate, and joked that the deadline extension for votes could have been for Ronaldo’s sake after his public spat with Sepp Blatter.

“It seems that the favourites are Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ribery,” he mused to AS. “The first two are very good and Ribery is the one who has won everything.

“They are three great players. The choice of the Ballon d’Or this year is the most difficult in the history of the trophy.

“The voting extension was a Fifa decision, though it happened to coincide with Portugal reaching the World Cup thanks to three goals from Ronaldo against Sweden.

He added, laughing: “It may be that Fifa has done it to please Cristiano…”

Platini also rued the fact that a Spanish player did not win the award after the nation won the 2010 World Cup, with Messi instead taking home the second of his current four Ballon d’Or titles.

“I do wonder about why [a Spain player didn’t win],” the Frenchman added. “I agree that, in 2010, the Ballon d’Or winner should have been Spanish.

“Andres Iniesta, Xavi… For me, one of them deserved it. Messi won it and he is a great champion. But in 2010, for me, it had to be a player from Spain that lifted the trophy.”

The Ballon d’Or award ceremony takes place on January 13, with voting having closed on November 29 after a two-week extension from the original date.

Lewandowski predicts Bayern crisis

The striker played down the possibility that the Bavarians – who he is expected to join in the summer – already have the league in the bag

Robert Lewandowski believes that Bayern Munich are due a crisis at some point this season and remains confident Borussia Dortmund can catch them in the Bundesliga.

Pep Guardiola’s men are four points clear of second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, while the Schwarzgelben sit seven points adrift of the league leaders having lost twice domestically in November, including a 3-0 defeat to the Bavarians.

The striker, who is expected to leave Signal Iduna Park for the Allianz Arena in the summer, played down suggestions that the reigning champions can already crown themselves as winners again and has hope BVB can storm up the table.

“It is too early right now to hand out the title,” Lewandowski, 25, told Bild ahead of Dortmund’s DFB-Pokal clash with third division side Saarbrucken on Tuesday.

“It may still be that Bayern have a little crisis as sometimes happens [to teams at the top]. I have not lost hope at all, in any case. But we must see to it that we win our games.”

Lewandowski is expected to leave Dortmund for Bayern when his contract expires in June 2014, but he appears determined to leave on a high and currently tops the Bundesliga goalscoring charts with 11 goals.

“Of course I would like to finish top scorer,” he added. “But the important thing is that as a team we have success.”

Looking ahead to Dortmund’s final Champions League group game on December 11, the Poland international believes their 3-1 victory over Napoli has given them the edge as they know that a win over Olympique de Marseille guarantees them a place in the last 16.

“After the Napoli game, we hold the advantage,” Lewandowski mused. “Our progress is back in our own hands.

“But it would be fatal for us to take Marseille lightly. Although they have taken zero points from the group, in most games they have only just been defeated. This again will be a tough tie.”