Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will return from injury for Bayern Munich in Friday’s Bundesliga game at strugglers Augsburg, their final tune-up before next week’s crunch Champions League clash away to Liverpool.
Neuer, 32, has sat out Bayern’s last three games with a thumb injury but will prove his fitness at Augsburg ahead of Tuesday’s last 16, first leg against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Anfield.
“Things have gone well yesterday and today — I’m ready,” said Neuer after final training on Thursday.
“The medical department has given me the green light, I’ve had two good sessions and everything has worked well.”
Bayern are wary of rushing Neuer back too soon, especially given his injury history after fracturing his foot twice in quick succession in 2017 which saw him miss most of last season.
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Head coach Niko Kovac now has almost a full-strength squad to choose from with only Arjen Robben and Corentin Tolisso still sidelined by injury.
Second-placed Bayern’s 3-1 home win against Schalke last weekend trimmed the gap to five points behind Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund, who threw away a three-goal lead in a 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim.
Kovac and Bayern will target a ninth league win in 10 outings at Augsburg to maintain the pressure on Dortmund, who play bottom side Nuremberg away on Monday and are eager to bounce back after Wednesday’s 3-0 drubbing at Tottenham Hotspur in Europe.
The Wembley rout in the Champions League last 16 means Dortmund have conceded three goals in each of their last three games and head coach Lucien Favre needs to shore up a porous defence.
– No easing up at Augsburg –
Augsburg, who have recruited ex-Arsenal and Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann as assistant coach, were hammered 4-0 by Werder Bremen at the weekend to leave them just above the relegation places.
“The league title will be won in defence, I’d hope we win the game on Friday and, if possible, prevent them from scoring,” said Kovac.
“We have no reason to spare anyone in Augsburg.
“We have enough time to recover and we don’t want to underestimate the game, because this is a chance to really get into the Bundesliga race.
“This game is important to create a bit of atmosphere.”
Liverpool will host Bayern having had 10 days off since their last match, Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Bournemouth, but Kovac says their opponents’ break could be an advantage for the Germans.
“We are playing against Liverpool who were in the final last year and have spent a bit more money than we have,” said Kovac, referring to Liverpool’s high-profile signings of goalkeeper Alisson, and midfielders Naby Keita and Fabinho.
“It’s two top teams — little things, and a bit of luck, will decide the game.
“It’s no bad thing if Liverpool get a few days’ rest — it’ll mean they will lose their rhythm.”
Fixtures (all fixtures 1430 unless stated)
Augsburg v Bayern Munich (1930)
Schalke v Freiburg, Hoffenheim v Hanover 96, Stuttgart v RB Leipzig, Wolfsburg v Mainz, Hertha Berlin v Werder Bremen (1730)
Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen v Fortuna Duesseldorf (1700)
Nuremberg v Borussia Dortmund (1930)