Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rafinha ready for Bayern to prosper without Guardiola-era injuries

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 31 Mar 2017

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Rafinha believes Bayern Munich are in a better physical condition to challenge for glory on all fronts this season than during their time under Pep Guardiola.

Bayern are on course for a fifth consecutive top-flight title in Germany and will contest the respective quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Champions League and DFB-Pokal later this month.

Their past three Bundesliga crowns came under Guardiola but the former Barcelona boss was unable to emulate Jupp Heynckes’ 2012-13 treble in Bavaria.

Questions were asked over the detrimental effect of Guardiola’s high-intensity playing style as untimely injuries to key men regularly hindered Bayern at the business end of the season, including bowing out at the semi-final stage of the Champions League in each of the past three campaigns.

Current boss Carlo Ancelotti heads into Saturday’s game against Augsburg without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer due to minor foot surgery but has a squad in good health elsewhere – a factor that has not passed unnoticed for full-back Rafinha.

“The three years with Pep Guardiola were great but the difference is the phase in March, April and May,” the 31-year-old told Omnisport.

“During his time many players were injured and therefore we had a lot of problems.

“In my opinion we played good the whole season until now but at the moment we are even better. The team plays more aggressive and everybody wants to play.

“We need guys who are angry when they come onto the pitch. Everyone has the pleasure to play and win big titles. I am sure that we will be successful in this season. Without new injuries we will be in a good position.”

A trophy laden send-off would be a fitting way for Bayern captain Philipp Lahm to head into retirement, alongside veteran midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Lahm’s brilliance at right-back – he also excelled as a converted midfielder under Guardiola – has served to limit Rafinha’s playing time since joining Bayern from Genoa in 2011, but he is sad to see his long-time colleague leaving the fray.

“The most important thing is that we are very good friends. We are playing together for six years,” he explained.

“He is the best right-back in the world. I’m happy because I played a lot of games in these six years.

“If you have a right-back in your team with the quality of Philipp, I am motivated and it’s fun. Of course it’s a pity that he will retire.

“Normally he could play for more years but we experiences a lot of great memories and won a lot of titles.

“I hope that the season will end in a good way and we can win more titles for him and Xabi Alonso.”

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