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Bayern coach faces ex-team in strained friendly

Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola's former team meets his current employers in a friendly on Wednesday, as the European champions host Barcelona with relations strained between the Spaniard and his ex-club.

Bayern coach faces ex-team in strained friendly
Photo: DPA

On Tuesday, Barcelona named former Paraguay manager and Argentina midfielder Gerardo Martino as head coach to replace Tito Vilanova, who resigned Friday as he battles against cancer.

After Guardiola won 14 titles between 2008 and 2012 at Barcelona, the pre-season run-out has added spice given recent events which have strained relations between the two European powerhouses.

Guardiola took charge of Bayern last month amid great fanfare, after the Bavarians lured the 42-year-old to Munich following his year’s sabbatical in New York.

Guardiola has already poached Spain Under-21 captain Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona to bolster his star-studded midfield which includes Holland’s Arjen Robben and France winger Franck Ribery.

But Guardiola stirred up bad blood with his former bosses earlier this month when he accused the Barcelona board of trying to “damage” him.

Guardiola lashed out in a press conference, making allegations against the board, which were later refuted, that he had snubbed Vilanova while he was being treated for cancer in New York.

“I will never forget that they used Tito’s illness to cause me damage, because it’s a lie that I never saw him in New York,” he said.

With relations strained off the field, there is plenty of spice on it, although both teams are likely to name weakened teams.

Bayern’s Germany stars Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Götze are both recovering from injury, while neither team is expected to have their Confederations Cup stars in action.

Both Barcelona’s new Brazil star Neymar and Spain’s Carles Puyol, who is working his way back to fitness after knee surgery in March, are expected to sit it out.

Senior stars Javier Mascherano, Adriano Correia, Alex Song and Alexis Sanchez are likely to feature among a host of reserves, while Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi is set to play some part.

Barcelona have something to prove against Bayern having been humbled 7-0 on aggregate in last season’s Champions League finals when the Germans backed up a 4-0 win in Munich with a 3-0 rout at the Camp Nou.

Having already chalked up wins over Bundesliga opposition Hamburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach in a pre-season tournament over the weekend, the Barcelona friendly is a big test for Guardiola’s new-look Bayern.

He has introduced a 4-1-4-1 system, from the 4-2-3-1 formation which won last season’s treble, and switched Germany captain Philipp Lahm from right-back into midfield with France winger Franck Ribery up front.

The game’s kick-off time has been brought forward to 1830 local time (1630

GMT) to allow home-team fans to watch Germany’s women in the semi-final of the

2013 European Championships.

AFP/jlb

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UKRAINE

German football club ends partnership with Russia’s Gazprom

German football club Schalke 04 announced Monday it had prematurely ended its partnership with Russian gas giant Gazprom following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

German football club ends partnership with Russia's Gazprom

The deal between the second-tier German club and Gazprom had been due to run until 2025 with Schalke receiving around €9 million ($10 million) per year in sponsorship.

Had the Gelsenkirchen-based club won promotion back to the Bundesliga at the end of this season, the sponsorship figure would have risen to €15 million annually.

Schalke had already removed the Gazprom logo from their shirts for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Karlsruhe.

In a statement, Schalke said their finances were “unaffected by this decision”.

“The club’s management is confident that it will be able to present a new partner in the near future.”

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany has scuppered Nord Stream 2 but there are questions left to answer

Gazprom representative Matthias Warnig resigned from the club’s supervisory board last Thursday.

Hans-Joachim Watzke, interim president of the German Football Association (DFB), had already hinted there could be financial aid for Schalke if they split from Gazprom.

“If this requires the solidarity of other clubs in Germany to get them out of this situation, then we have to discuss how we can manage that,” Watzke told ZDF.

READ ALSO: Germany set to shut airspace to Russian planes on Sunday

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