Guardiola impressed by Robben impact

The Dutchman took his tally to 10 for the season after hitting both goals in Saturday’s win over Eintracht Braunschweig and his coach was thrilled with their recent form

Pep Guardiola praised Arjen Robben’s goalscoring impact this season as Bayern Munich recorded a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday.

The Bundesliga leaders had a taxing schedule leading into this game, having claimed away wins against title rivals Borussia Dortmund in the league and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League in the space of five days.

Robben’s first-half double sealed the triumph to extend Bayern’s unbeaten league run to 39 games.

The hosts were dominant for long spells and enjoyed 78 per cent possession, but rock-bottom Braunschweig had their chances on the counter-attack and could have scored on a couple of occasions.

Guardiola was particularly happy with Robben as the Dutchman took his goal tally to 10 in all competitions this term.

“I’m pleased,” the coach said after the match. “Robben is very important for us and creates many goals.

“It was a difficult game because we came from Dortmund and Moscow.

“This game was a whole different ball game.”

The victory maintains Bayern’s four-point lead at the top of the table from Bayer Leverkusen, with Dortmund a further three points behind.

Sabella: I picked Messi ahead of Ronaldo for Ballon d'Or

The Albiceleste boss feels that the Barcelona attack had a better 2013 than his Real Madrid rival, and is confident that the No.10 will be fully fit for next year’s World Cup

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has admitted that he picked Lionel Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo for this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Messi has won the award for the past four years but the Barcelona ace has an injury-interrupted 2013 and many pundits believe that he will lose out to either Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo or Franck Ribery, who won a treble with Bayern Munich last season.

However, Sabella has revealed that he had absolutely no doubts about giving his backing to the Albiceleste‘s talismanic No.10.

“I voted for Messi – without a doubt,” the Argentina boss told Radio Continental. “Second was Cristiano and then third, Ribery.”

Messi is currently sidelined until the end of the year with a thigh problem but Sabella is confident that the 26-year-old will be in peak physical condition by the summer.

“He is going to recover well from injury and will be in good shape for the World Cup,” the 59-year-old stated. “Hopefully nothing happens from here to June.”

Argentina are one of the eight seeded teams for next week’s World Cup draw in Brazil.

Bayern Munich 2-0 Eintracht Braunschweig: Robben leads Roten to victory

Bayern Munich made it 39 Bundesliga matches without defeat with a routine 2-0 victory over Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday.

Guardiola’s side were in complete control at the Allianz Arena after Arjen Robben broke the deadlock in the second minute.

They went on to have over 80 per cent possession and doubled their lead as Robben netted his second with a trademark finish cutting in from the right – his sixth goal of the season.

Braunschweig failed to test Manuel Neuer in the opening half but did have two openings after the break that the Germany international was able to save.

Moments after Robben had gone close to netting his hat-trick, David Alaba made a sensational goal-line clearance to deny Karim Bellarabi and secure the victory.

The league leaders made two changes with Daniel van Buyten replacing Jerome Boateng at the heart of the defence and Thiago Alcantara taking the injured Philipp Lahm’s role in midfield.

Braunschweig also made two changes with Marco Caligiuri and Simeon Jackson coming in for Damir Vrancic and Timo Perthel.

Any hopes the visitors had of containing the defending champions were dashed in the second minute as Robben opened the scoring with Bayern’s first effort on target.

Thiago lifted a perfect ball over the defence for the Netherlands international, whose initial effort struck the post, but rebounded kindly for the winger to stoop and head home.

The early goal appeared to take the tempo out of the game, with Bayern dominating possession and patiently waiting for an opening.

And it came after 20 minutes from a left-wing corner, Dante rising highest to head towards the top corner only for Norman Theuerkauf to clear off the line and deny the Brazilian his first goal of the season.

Guardiola’s side did not have to wait long for the second goal though, as Robben grabbed his second 10 minutes later, typically jinking in from the right and firing home from 15 yards.

Braunschweig had two sights of goal in the opening minutes of the second half, but Simeon Jackson and Ermin Bicakcic were unable to convert.

Robben went close to claiming a hat-trick with a 72nd-minute free kick, he lifted the ball over the bar and beat Daniel Davari for pace but the ball clipped the top of the crossbar on its way over.

Bellarabi went close twice in the closing stages, but his long-range effort, after Neuer had rushed from his line, was acrobatically cleared by Alaba and the 23-year-old also saw a deflected effort clip the bar as Bayern just preserved a third consecutive clean sheet in the league.

'Dortmund second best in Europe behind Bayern'

Paul Breitner, a senior figure at the Allianz Arena, believes that only BVB, Real Madrid and Barcelona can hold a candle to the European champions

Bayern Munich’s main rivals in the Champions League are Borussia Dortmund, according to Bavarians chief Paul Breitner.

The Schwarzgelben were thrashed 3-0 by the Roten last weekend to leave their Bundesliga hopes bruised but recovered with a midweek win over Napoli, which leaves them in a healthy position to reach the last 16 in the top European cup.

Although the World Cup winner acknowledged the threat posed by Real Madrid and Barcelona, Breitner believes last season’s runners-up in the Champions League are the greatest enemies to Bayern’s continental crown when they are without injuries.

“We are the clear favourites,” the Germany legend told AZ. “Then come Madrid, Barcelona and Dortmund.

“That, to me, is the current order in world football, so the starting position for where we stand in 2014.

“In normal circumstances, for me Dortmund are absolutely the clear second best in Europe! When all of their players are fit, they are at the pinnacle of the game.”

Although Breitner retained reverence for treble-winning Jupp Heynckes, who was replaced as head coach in the summer, the 1972 European Championship victor thinks that the influence of Pep Guardiola has taken the Bavarians’ quality up a level.

“Heynckes developed our play very much but now our game is even more unpredictable and varied,” the German continued. “I merit that to Guardiola.”

Bayern’s next game is at home to Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday, which kick-off at 15:30CET.

Guardiola worried by injury crisis

The Spaniard believes his squad will be stretched to the limit over the coming weeks, with a number of first team players out injured

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has admitted that he is worried by the club’s mounting injury crisis.

The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro, Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm are all missing for the Bavarians with a variety of knocks.

With the European champions set to enter a gruelling period in the season, Guardiola feels the support of the home fans could be more valuable than ever.

“This is a difficult situation,” he told reporters at a press conference.

“I don’t know that the condition of the team is. I hope that our heads are in the right place. When our legs have not got much in them, we need the support of our fans.

“We have to survive the next two or three weeks. That’s why we have a second team.”

However, Guardiola did confirm that Mario Mandzukic and Diego Contento can return to the fold for Saturday’s match against Eintracht Braunschweig.

Looking ahead to the clash with the newly-promoted side, the former Spain international called upon his players not to underestimate the northerners, due to their impressive results against the Bundesliga’s top teams.

He added: “They will be 100 per cent focused. For us, it is difficult to maintain that level.”

Finally, the 42-year-old drew a line under the recent mole scandal, in which Bayern’s line-up and tactics were leaked to Bild prior to their clash with Borussia Dortmund.

“This is normal at a big club. It happens. I’m trying to convince my players that it’s best if things remain amongst us. The issue is over now.”