Schalke – Bayern Munich preview: Bayern entering decisive phase – Muller

The in-form Bavarians take on the side from Gelsenkirchen in the Bundesliga, with their forward eyeing all three points

Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller says his side’s return to Bundesliga action after the international break will be “decisive” in their quest to retain the title.

The champions begin a sequence of eight fixtures in the space of a month with a difficult trip to Schalke, where they will face a side who have not won in their last six matches in all competitions.

Schalke, though, have lost just once at Veltins Arena in the league this season, and Muller expects Andre Breitenreiter’s side to be hungry for a scalp.

Muller told FC Bayern TV:  “They will have their backs to the wall at home in front of their own fans.

“There are easier fixtures coming off the back of the international break.

“We have to take all three points. We are entering a decisive phase in the season.”

Bayern will be without midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who picked up a knee injury during Spain’s 2-0 friendly victory over England and is expected to be out for four weeks. He joins Franck Ribery (ankle), Mario Gotze (hamstring) and Juan Bernat (groin) in the treatment room.

Schalke coach Breitenreiter welcomed 10 internationals back to his squad with no new injury problems, but he will be unable to call on midfielder Johannes Geis, who is suspended for the visit of Bayern.

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Breitenreiter conceded his side would need to be at their very best to claim a result against Bayern, saying: “We have to play with heart and passion. We need to try and have a faultless match.

“FC Bayern are one of the best teams in the world, with a lot of individual quality. Every mistake will be punished.

“It is absolutely necessary against Bayern that we can use our opportunities. We will have some chances and we want to use them.

“The fans will see players on the pitch who will give their hearts into the game. The team will play with passion and they’ll try to implement our plan in the best possible way.”

Following the announcement that matchday security at Veltins Arena will be stepped up for the match, Breitenreiter backed the decision for Bundesliga action to continue in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

He said: “There are many countries all over the world where it is not possible to live in freedom. We should never give our freedom up.

“That’s the reason why I’m convinced that it was the right decision that our game takes place.

“There is always the risk of an attack, so we have to trust our security authorities and especially we should trust security measures that the game can take place without any problem.”

Breitenreiter wants ruthless Schalke to welcome Bayern

The Bavarians have been in unbeatable form at the start of the season, but their opponents’ coach believes that if they are on top form they can triumph on Saturday

Schalke coach Andre Breitenreiter believes his team will need a flawless performance in order to take anything from their weekend clash with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Breitenreiter’s men are without a win for six matches in all competitions and welcome Bayern to the Veltins-Arena on Saturday on the back of a dispiriting 3-2 derby loss to local rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern have taken an astonishing 34 points from 36 on offer in the Bundesliga so far this season and Breitenreiter stated that any mistakes made by Pep Guardiola’s side will have to be ruthlessly punished.

“We want to play without any mistakes – you need to against Bayern,” he said.

“We will be giving the team a clear game plan. There will be chances for us in the match.

“We have gone over a number of things that we want to implement on Saturday, but we’re the underdogs.

“There are games where Bayern make mistakes and are maybe a little sloppy. We want to take advantage of that.”

Breitenreiter, who was reported by local newspaper Der Westen to have branded the Tuesday training performance of his players not on international duty as “a circus”, is set to welcome back captain Benedikt Howedes from a fractured hand.

Germany defender Howedes scored in both Bundesliga matches against Bayern last season as Schalke emerged with a pair of 1-1 draws.

“All of the international players have returned fully fit,” he added. “Bene Howedes is back on board now too after his injury.

“Leroy Sane, Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka put in great performances with Germany Under-21s and have really developed as players.”

Drogba: We made Robben miss Champions League final penalty

The former Blues striker suggested that he tried to put the Dutch winger off during the penalty shoot-out and also revealed Jose Bosingwa taking on Roberto di Matteo

Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba has revealed that he, along with midfielder, Frank Lampard, tried to distract Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben as he was about to take a penalty in the 2012 Champions League final.

The Blues triumphed at Bayern’s home ground, coming from behind to level the match with a Drogba header, then overcoming the Bavarians on penalties.

And writing in Commitment, his new autobiography, the Ivorian revealed the techniques that he used to try and make sure Robben missed his crucial penalty.

Along with Lampard, Drogba tried to remind the Dutch forward of his Chelsea past, suggesting goalkeeper Petr Cech would know where he wanted to place the spot-kick.

“Arjen, you’re a Chelsea player, you can’t do this! Don’t do it! Anyway, we’ll know where you’re going to shoot,” Drogba and Lampard said to Robben, according the Ivorian’s autobiography.

“We got inside his head, definitely, because his kick was weak – definitely weaker than it would normally have been – and Petr saved it,” Drogba suggested.

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The Montreal Impact player believes that his tactics had the required effect, as Robben missed and Chelsea went on to win the Champions League.

That win marked Chelsea’s first Champions League triumph, coming after a remarkable semi-final victory over favourites Barcelona, with the Blues hanging onto their result late in the game.

Roberto di Matteo was charged with guiding the club through the latter stages of the European campaign, but Drogba revealed that the players made their own tactical decisions, with Jose Bosingwa overrriding the manager’s orders in the semi-final with Barcelona.

“The players really stepped up to take responsibility,” Drogba writes.

“The manager was telling Branislav Ivanovic to play centre back but Jose Bosingwa said, ‘No, no, I will play centre back’, and carried on to say where he thought others should play.

“I remember saying. ‘I can play left back if necessary. We don’t need a striker. I’ll play striker and left back, whatever it takes’.”

Boateng embracing role as Bayern Munich's quarterback

The centre-back has added a new weapon to Pep Guardiola’s armoury this season by launching quick, direct passes out of defence as an alternative to their normal possession game

Jerome Boateng is happy to take up the role of Bayern Munich’s quarterback as Pep Guardiola continues to tinker with the club’s attacking philosophy.

Although well known for wanting his teams to keep possession through short, sharp passing, former Barcelona boss Guardiola has added a more direct ploy to Bayern’s game plan this season.

The centre-backs are being encouraged to play long balls quickly from deep to catch their opponents out, something akin to how a quarterback uses a deep pass to pick out a wide receiver in American football.

And Boateng explained: “This is the philosophy of Pep Guardiola. We act as a kind of central defender quarterback. The long pass is an element in our game that we have now enhanced.”

Boateng demonstrated his range of passing in Bayern’s 5-1 home victory over Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in October, setting up goals for Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski with balls played in behind the visiting defence.

The Germany international believes Guardiola’s methods are now bearing fruit after two seasons in which they defended their Bundesliga title but failed to return to the Champions League final.

“That [Dortmund game] shows that the team has really internalised the philosophy of Guardiola in the third year,” he added.

Zidane lauds Guardiola's impact at Bayern

While the ex-Barcelona man has seen his team dominate the Bundesliga European success has yet to follow, but the French legend believes Die Roten are far improved

Pep Guardiola has lifted Bayern Munich to another level since taking over at the club in 2013, according to former France international Zinedine Zidane.

Guardiola’s arrival at the Allianz Arena has secured successive Bundesliga titles and the DFB-Pokal, with their attacking brand of football setting them aside from other teams in Germany.

Success in Europe has yet to materialise for the 44-year-old, although his side have reached the last four of the Champions League in each of the previous two campaigns.

Zidane has been impressed with former Barcelona coach Guardiola since his switch from Spain to Germany, and believes the Catalan has led Bayern to a new level.

“What I’ve noticed is that Pep Guardiola has lifted Bayern to a sensational and fantastic level,” he told TZ. “Since he came to Bayern I have not seen a bad game.

“Not only has he brought the maximum out of the players, but he has got 120 per cent [from them].

“Germany should be proud to have such an outstanding club.”