Fast-food Hanover out to upset gourmet Bayern
After Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola compared the "pizzas and hamburgers" of the Bundesliga to the "gourmet" Champions League, Hanover 96 plan to serve the league leaders an unappetising result on Sunday.
"We're preparing the pizzas and the burgers, we'll decide the ingredients," quipped coach Tayfun Korkut as his Hanover side prepare to welcome Guardiola's Bayern for Sunday evening's league clash.
"We want to make the pizza very spicy and put a bit of extra mayonnaise on the burger so that Bayern will find it hard to digest."
On Friday, Guardiola described Bayern's 2-0 win at Arsenal on Wednesday in the Champions League as "like a good meal in a nice restaurant. Bundesliga is like every day pizza or hamburgers."
Guardiola has a point. Bayern have rarely been tested in the German league this season, with 19 wins and two draws in 21 matches.
They hold a commanding 16-point lead at the top of the table and are on a 46-match unbeaten run dating back to October 2012.
After their three main rivals -- Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 -- collected just one point between them over the weekend, Bayern can go 19 points clear with a win at Hanover.
"It's very difficult to be focused for every league match," Guardiola lamented.
While his comments may betray a touch of arrogance, it seems unlikely mid-table Hanover will halt Bayern's run of 10 straight wins.
The Bavarians won five titles in 2013 but their appetite shows no sign of being satisfied.
"I have to work more," said Guardiola, playing up to his reputation as a workaholic. "I had my break in New York. For me, it is a dream to win something for this club."
Hanover's form has been erratic since Korkut replaced Mirko Slomka, who was fired in December after a run of poor results.
The ex-Turkey midfielder led Hanover to consecutive 3-1 wins against high-fliers VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach at the start of the year, but his side has since slumped to 2-0 defeats against both Schalke and Mainz.
Nevertheless, the hosts are adamant they can test Bayern's collective stomachs for a tough match.
"We want Munich to experience our gourmet kitchen," said director of sport Dirk Dufner.
"We want to be uncomfortable and poisonous. The team will throw everything they have into it."
Korkut will be without centre-back Andre Hoffmann, who has a throat infection, but striker Mame Diouf should be fit to play having trained on Friday after a thigh injury.
Guardiola gave the Bayern team Friday off, declaring "the free time is only for their heads" to help prepare for Hanover, but the Spaniard said the champions must maintain their standards.
"We have to keep our high level of performance, but we can always improve," he said.
"In the next five or six games," Bayern can secure the Bundesliga title, according to Guardiola, whose side are on course to break last season's league record of lifting the title with six games to spare.
Bayern will be without injured wingers Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri, so Arjen Robben is set to start on the left again.