No place for egos in Bayern's title march
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Bayern Munich's French midfielder Franck Ribery, German defender Philipp Lahm, Belgian defender Daniel Van Buyten, Peruvian forward Claudio Pizarro, Spanish defender Javi Martinez and German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (L, back) celebrate their victory after winning their 2013 FIFA Club World Cup final match against Raja Casablanca. AFP PhotoCaptain Philipp Lahm has said there is no room for egos in Bayern Munich's squad as they bid to go 13 points clear in the Bundesliga at Stuttgart on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola's Bayern take on strugglers VfB Stuttgart in a re-arranged league fixture looking to extend their record unbeaten run to 43 matches.
Guardiola clamped down on any complacency by dropping top-scorer Mario Mandzukic for Friday's 2-0 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach for poor performances in training.
Lahm has said Bayern's star-studded squad can expect a few more tough-luck stories to come in the following weeks in their quest for a 24th league title.
"We have an enormous squad and when everyone is fit, there will be more hard-luck cases for those not involved," said Lahm.
"I don't judge the other players.
"The coach chooses the team, we have to accept that and stand behind his decision." One of the stars who will definitely not feature at 12th-placed Stuttgart is Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who has an inflamed knee ligament.
The 29-year-old had surgery for an ankle injury late last year, but aggravated a knee ligament in the winter training camp in Doha.
Bayern insist there is no risk of Schweinsteiger missing June's World Cup in Brazil, but Guardiola wants his midfield general back as soon as possible.
"This is a problem for us and for him. We need him and so does the national team. I hope he will be back as soon as possible," said Guardiola.
Having last lost in the Bundesliga in October 2012, it would be a major shock if Bayern stumble in Stuttgart.
Stuttgart coach Thomas Schneider insists "it's a bonus game", while captain Christian Gentner sees it as "probably our easiest match", so low are the expectations on the hosts.
"Perhaps it's better if we don't look at the table at the moment and concentrate on the game," said attacking midfielder Alexandru Maxim referring to the 28 points that separate Bayern Munich and Stuttgart.
With five defeats in their last seven games, Stuttgart are looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats and try and sew some doubt in the Bayern players minds over the ultimate destination of the title.
However, Bayern's three main rivals need all the help they can get from other teams, as they hardly helped their cause in collectively picking up a combined total of just one league point over the weekend.
Guardiola's side by contrast is showing no sign of dropping points.
They are on course to break their own record last season for the earliest title win when they were confirmed champions in April with six games to spare.
"This is a huge opportunity to extend our lead," said Lahm.
"Then it would be hard to catch us. We wouldn't be against winning the championship title early."