Pep talks up Costa, Robinho to take Guangzhou bow
GUANGZHOU: Pep Guardiola believes that the incessant gossip about players who might be leaving Bayern Munich has meant that the immediate impact of the just-arrived Douglas Costa has gone unnoticed.
The Bayern manager tried to put that right Wednesday as the German giants arrived in the bustling southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou.
"He has great one-on-one skills, he is strong, he gives us options and he will just keep on improving," said Guardiola of Costa.
But the Brazilian may again be overshadowed on Thursday, this time by his superstar countryman Robinho who is set to make his debut for Bayern's pre-season friendly opponents Guangzhou Evergrande.
Costa - a 30 million euro ($32.7 million) signing from Shakhtar Donetsk at the start of this month - has starred for Bayern on their so-far victorious tour of China.
A 4-1 defeat of Valencia in Beijing on Saturday was followed by a 1-0 win against Inter Milan in Shanghai on Tuesday with the 24-year-old Costa a constant threat on the flanks.
"We have been adjusting the way we have been playing and I am happy with the results," said Guardiola.
"The players are improving their physical conditioning. We have welcomed Douglas Costa into the team and you can already see what he will add to us."
There have been standout performances also from the two players who have been the subject of big transfer rumours during Bayern's sojourn to the Far East.
The German giants have already lost star midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger to Manchester United this summer.
Thomas Mueller -- a reported 100 million euro ($109 million) target also of Manchester United -- scored twice on Saturday against Valencia and again looked dangerous after tucking in behind Costa against Inter on Tuesday.
And Germany's World Cup final winning goalscorer Mario Gotze -- rumoured as a target for Italian giants Juventus -- slotted home the only goal against the side from Milan.
- Robinho debut -
The display went some way to making up for an earlier gaffe when the 23-year-old Gotze had proclaimed to media that he loved Chinese food, especially sushi. The dish is of course Japanese.
Bayern have been quick all week to deflect attention towards their impressive displays on the pitch. "We will continue to work hard and continue to improve," said Guardiola.
Guangzhou Evergrande, coached since last month by Luiz Felipe Scolari, are a team Bayern last met in 2013 when they won 3-0 in the FIFA Club World Club semi-final.
Since arriving, World Cup-winning Brazilian Scolari has bolstered his squad with compatriots Paulinho -- the 26-year-old was a 14 million euro ($15.2 million) signing from Tottenham Hotspur -- and the 31-year-old Robinho, who has arrived from Santos for a six-month contract following a free transfer.
Scolari revealed that former Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan forward Robinho had only landed in China on Tuesday but would play at least a half against the Germans as he looked to ease the player into both fitness and formation.
"He needs a run out and he is a player who will fit the style of football we are trying to achieve here," said Scolari, who left Robinho out of his 2014 World Cup squad.
Reigning champions Guangzhou are second in the Chinese Super League and have reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League. Scolari promised a testing examination for the Germans.
"We have had a lot of games recently and the squad are tired but I am sure playing a team of this quality will being out the best in them," said Scolari, who guided Brazil to 2002 World Cup glory.