BERLIN, Germany, May 11 – David Alaba says Bayern Munich are “hungry” and enjoying their return to full-team training ahead of the restart of the Bundesliga this weekend behind closed doors.
The German top flight resumes on Saturday after the season was suspended in mid-March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
It will be the first major European league to resume after the outbreak of the pandemic, which has so far claimed around 7,500 lives in Germany.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick has been putting his players through their paces in training sessions at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern, who were four points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund in their bid for an eighth straight Bundesliga title when football was halted, restart their season at Union Berlin on Sunday.
“It was really very, very nice to be back on the pitch, training as a whole team,” said Alaba.
“You could tell how much we have all looked forward to this moment.
“You could feel that in training, everyone was hungry — and looking forward to the first game.”
– ‘Extreme challenge’ –
Chancellor Angela Merkel approved the league’s plan to restart with regular testing of players and strict hygiene measures in place.
Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert has warned clubs they are “on probation” because of fears an outbreak of the virus in the competition could again see the season suspended.
The clubs are now holding practice sessions featuring the whole squad after weeks of training in small groups.
Dortmund host arch rivals Schalke on Saturday in the first derby without spectators in the rivalry’s 95-year history.
Dortmund played the first of two training matches at Signal Iduna Park without injured midfielders Axel Witsel and Emre Can.
“We are used to playing at home in front of 82,000,” Dortmund coach Lucien Favre told German daily Bild.
“To prepare mentally now to play without being cheered and without being pushed by the atmosphere is an extreme challenge.”
– ‘Stick to the rules’ –
RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann is hoping his side can treat the remainder of the campaign as a mini-tournament to help them rekindle their title challenge.
The third-placed outfit, five points behind Bayern, host mid-table Freiburg on Saturday.
“The whole situation is like before a tournament: we all had a short break, then a relaxed phase and now an intense preparation,” Nagelsmann told magazine Kicker.
“When Bayern are on top form, they usually decide the league title for themselves, especially with this lead.
“We’re going to try to win this nine-game tournament — with the theoretical possibility of finishing first.”
Nagelsmann said the onus is on the players to obey the hygiene regulations.
“You don’t have to have studied nuclear physics to understand that it is advisable to stick to the rules,” he said.
“After all, if there are no more matches, the salaries will be significantly lower than before.”
Clubs must finish the season by June 30 in order to collect around 300 million euros ($324 million) in television money.