Bayern's clash with Hoffenheim overshadowed by 'bad mood' remarks


Berlin (AFP)

Runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich host strugglers Hoffenheim on Sunday in their first home league match of 2016 with 'Molegate' having overshadowed the build-up.

Bayern started the weekend eight points clear in the table and in rude health on the pitch ahead of the Allianz Arena clash.

But the German media went into a spin last week when magazine Kicker quoted a Bayern player saying the mood in the squad is "not good".

The unnamed mole said spirits have nose-dived since coach Pep Guardiola demanded more professionalism from his squad after a few players were found to be overweight.

Guardiola has also clamped down on his squad jetting off on days off to ensure they rest properly in Munich between matches in the coming weeks.

The pre-match press conference on Friday saw Guardiola, who announced last month that he will leave in May, fielding numerous questions about the mole with Hoffenheim barely mentioned.

"Where does this anonymous player play?" Guardiola asked reporters with irritation.

"Is he a left-back or a centre-back? Or does he play up front?

"Or is he perhaps amongst the staff? I don't know this anonymous player."

Having also had to deal in late 2013 with a mole, whose identity was never revealed, Guardiola says he has learnt to live with having a Bayern player break ranks.

The Spaniard, who wants to coach in England next season, insists morale is "good, very good" and, on paper at least, Hoffenheim should not pose Bayern a problem.

They have never beaten the Bavarian giants in 15 attempts in the league and are deep in the relegation places under caretaker coach Huub Stevens.

But therein lies the danger.

"Every opponent is dangerous," warned Bayern's Dutch winger Arjen Robben.

"We must take measures to make sure they (Hoffenheim) can't be dangerous. That's down to us.

"Hopefully we can take one step further."

From Bayern's perspective, Hoffenheim should be one more step towards becoming the first club to win a fourth straight German league title.

But Bayern needed a 90th-minute winner from Robert Lewandowski to seal a 2-1 comeback away victory last August when Hoffenheim took the lead after just nine seconds.

While Bayern are without groin-injury victim Jerome Boateng, who could be out for up to three months, wing-back Juan Bernat is poised to return.

In Boateng's absence, Spain's Javi Martinez is set to partner Holger Badstuber at centre-back.

Injured quartet Rafinha, Franck Ribery, Mario Goetze and Medhi Benatia are all on the path to fitness, according to Guardiola.

Hoffenheim's Stevens says it is a chance for his players to show what they can do against Germany's top team.

"It's a normal game against a very strong opponent. For the guys that's a good game - they can be seen," said Stevens.

"I always enjoyed those games as a player.

"Bayern are a very strong team, who, in my eyes, is the favourite to win the title in the Champions League."