Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (left), Dutch striker of the FC Schalke 04 football team, and Jens Keller head coach of FC Schalke 04 during a Press conference at the Torch Doha Hotel yesterday. FC Schalke 04 will clash with Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich in a friendly match today at Al Sadd Stadium at 7.00pm. RIGHT: Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng (left) and Luiz Gustavo vie for the ball during a practice session in the team’s training camp at Aspire Academy yesterday. FC Bayern Munich camp ends tomorrow in Qatar. The Bundesliga giants are preparing for the second half of the German football season.Photos by: Kammutty VP/EPA
Doha: Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich and seventh- placed FC Schalke 04 have set different targets for them in the second half of the season resumes on January 18.
But all the tall talk of the season ahead will get a back seat today when the two clubs clash in a friendly at Al Sadd Stadium.
The focus will be on winning to gain a psychological edge for the remaining part of the season.
The Bavarain club is aiming to lay their hands on the Bundesliga title and they are well placed to achieve it.
The Champions League runners-up have 42 points in the kitty after 17 matches having lost just one match and drawn three.
A nine point difference separates the leaders from second placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen who are on 33 points.
The Royal Blues on the other hand are struggling and new coach Jens Keller has a huge task ahead of him.
“My main target is the Bundesliga. We want to qualify for next year’s Champions League. So we have to finish in the top four which is our target,” said Keller, while speaking to journalists here yesterday on the eve of the friendly match.
With only the top four of the Bundesliga earning qualification for next season’s Champions League Keller boys, lying in the seventh spot, have a herculean task.
Keller who stepped into the breach just a few days before the DFB Cup game against Mainz got a chance to know his players at the Qatar training camp and prepare for the Bundesliga restart against Hannover.
“We have practised on how I want my team to play football and also worked a lot on the tactics. I have to make sure the lads get a grip on switching to the play quickly. We don’t have a lot of time to prioritise loads of different aspects so we have focussed on two or three things and do them properly,” said Keller.
Meanwhile, Bastian Schweinsteiger says he and his FC Bayern Munich colleagues are fully prepared for the upcoming title run in, claiming: “2012 was an intensive year overshadowed by injuries, but now I feel completely free again.”
For the Germany midfielder the New Year is “all about winning the Bundesliga and as many other titles as possible”, but warned: “You can only be successful if the team is successful and there’s still a long way to go.”
“I can feel the hunger,” he added.
Schweinsteiger believes the table toppers, who enjoyed a well-earned break yesterday after several days of intense training in Qatar, are well set for the challenges ahead: “I can feel the hunger,” said the 28-year-old. “We’re training intensely and at a very, very high level.”
For him, it is just a case of working on the finer details ahead of Bayern’s Bundesliga resumption against Greuther Fürth on January 19.
“We need to improve our transitional play and our shape. We only conceded seven goals in the first half of the season, so we need to make the very most of that. Our aim has to be to keep a clean sheet in every match,” the German said.
Today’s friendly against FC Schalke will be Bayern’s second freindly during their training camp in Doha.
In the first one on Saturday Byern trounced Qatar Stars League champions Lekhwiya SC 4-0.
It was good news for the Bayern as Arjen Robben was back after an injury layoff.
The striker came as a second substitute and scored one goal.
A 1,500 crowd saw Thomas Müller open the scoring on 26 minutes, with Daniel van Buyten and Claudio Pizarro (2) netting after the break, with Robben completing the tally.
Jupp Heynckes’ starting line-up on Saturday bore a strong resemblance to the side which could well take the field for the Bundesliga restart fixture.
The boss replaced all ten outfield players at the break, with only keeper Manuel Neuer covering the full 90 minutes.
Mario Gomez and Tom Starke sat out the match with minor injuries, and watched from the stands alongside Luiz Gustavo, who has only just returned from injury and was rested after the heavy training burden of recent days.
On the other hand, Schalke’s opening game in 2013 ended in victory on Sunday when the Royal Blues defeated Al Sadd 3-2 in a friendly.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Julian Draxler and Benedikt Höwedes got the goals against Raul’s new club at Al Sadd Stadium.
Keller opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Huntelaar as the lone striker.
In Kaan Ayhan and Max Meyer, two of the three academy players Keller took with him to the Qatar training camp were given a chance from the start.
The third, Dennis Erdmann, missed out due to a slight knock.
For Bayern this is the third successive year they are traning in Qatar during the winter break, while Schalke are making use of the facilities at the Aspire Academy for the second year for their mid-season training programme.