Neuer returns as Bayern braces for Cologne test

Reuters

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The goalkeeper and captain of Bayern was absent on Friday (AEDT) because of a gastro-intestinal infection, but the 33-year-old appears primed to maintain his ever-present record in this season's Bundesliga.

That news came as a major boost to head coach Hansi Flick, who is set to be without Javi Martinez and Niklas Sule for the clash with Markus Gisdol's team, with left-back David Alaba expected to shake off a minor muscle problem.

A goalless draw with title rival RB Leipzig last week kept Bayern top of the table, but Flick has warned his side it must not show any weakness at this point in the campaign.

Flick identified Cologne, which sits in 13th place, as a team that has shown marked improvement since the early months of the season.

Gisdol took charge in November, when Cologne had won just twice in 11 league games, losing eight of those matches, including a 4-0 thumping at Bayern.

It has since won five and lost three games, and Flick observed: "They have been very successful since Markus Gisdol became coach there.

"Cologne is a team that can sometimes squeeze and hurt you. We don't want to let that happen."

Flick spoke of how Bayern is preparing for the "English weeks" in its season, meaning the weeks when it must play matches both at the weekend and in midweek.

With UEFA Champions League and domestic cup commitments ahead, the schedule could be hectic over the remaining months of the campaign.

Flick also said he was pleased to see Kingsley Coman and Lucas Hernandez recovering well from knee injuries.

"We still don’t know if they are ready for 90 minutes," Flick said. "Of course they need practice. The goal is for everyone to be at 100 per cent if possible when the English weeks begin."

What has been pleasing to Flick, during the time he has spent as Bayern's interim boss, is the way there has been strong communication with his players.

Bayern's results have significantly perked up, with the draw against Leipzig coming at the end of a run of eight wins in competitive games.

"We want everyone to have a say," Flick said. "At the moment, it's working well. Players are coming to me too. It's a good and important sign."