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First versus second

Bayern aim to halt Leverkusen charge

After putting four past Karlsruhe and rattling up five goals at home to Cottbus, Bayern are hoping to continue their free-scoring form away to hot pursuers Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday (live in English from 3.15 pm CET on Web Radio), extending their lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a third victory in seven days. However, the team currently in second are bound to put up more resistance than the Reds have encountered of late. "Leverkusen are in great shape at the moment,“ former Bayer star Zé Roberto warned, before adding: "But so are we.“

First against second, the league's best attack against the defensive line which shares with Bayern's the distinction of conceding just three goals this term: on matchday 8, the BayArena is the stage for the biggest game of the season so far. "It'll be an attractive match for the crowd“, commented Zé Roberto ahead of a fixture which has produced its fair share of goals down the years.

Leverkusen in hot pursuit

Bayern have won their last five matches against Leverkusen, but the home side have tightened up in defence compared to last season. Bayer have yet to concede a goal at home and are thus unbeaten in the Rhineland. "Leverkusen have come on very well,“ reasoned Ottmar Hitzfeld, "they're on peak form. The match will tell us a lot about where we stand.“

"We'll have to run hard, work hard and win our tackles," offered Lucio, Zé Roberto's former Leverkusen team-mate. "It won't be easy," the central defender continued, "Leverkusen are our chief rivals at the moment.“ The Bayer camp poured scorn on the idea. "That would make us Bayern's seventh official chief rivals,“ coach Michael Skibbe pointed out. Added midfielder Simon Rolfes: "It was Hertha last week, so is it supposed to be our turn now?“

Crowd as 'twelfth man'

Leverkusen have stealthily risen to second with three wins on the trot, "but the first half in Nuremberg in midweek showed we can't call ourselves a top team just yet“, remarked Skibbe, calling for his men to improve, "otherwise we won't stand a chance on Saturday.“

Leverkusen are hoping for a lift from a boisterous crowd. "We'll need an extra man to beat Bayern. Everyone who identifies with us needs to cheer us on, every single person,“ Skibbe urged. "With the crowd behind them in their small, compact stadium, Leverkusen can be dangerous,“ Zé Roberto confirmed.

Good footballing side

Bayern will need to strike as early as possible to take the wind out of the home side's sails. "We have to use our intelligence,“ commented Zé Roberto. "Leverkusen are permanently looking to attack. That's good for us,“ the Brazilian continued, confident the men from Munich would find enough space to unfold their own attacking moves. "We do better against teams who try to play football,“ Hitzfeld agreed.

The coach is likely to make just one change to the side which demolished Cottbus in midweek, Lucio returning from a rest in place of Daniel van Buyten. For Leverkusen, there are question-marks over Bernd Schneider and Vratislav Gresko.

Skibbe's poor run

Neither side will be short of confidence going into the match. "We have a chance, provided everything goes perfectly, we unite as a team and invest all our reserves of energy,“ declared Skibbe, who has yet to lead a team to victory over Bayern (3 draws, 3 defeats). The Bavarians are aiming to extend the Bayer coach's miserable run. "I hope we can put an end to Leverkusen's charge,“ Zé Roberto summarised.

Probable line-ups:

Bayer Leverkusen: Adler - Castro, Friedrich, Haggui, Sarpei - Vidal, Rolfes - Kießling, Barbarez, Barnetta - Gekas

Bayern Munich: Kahn - Lell, Lucio, Demichelis, Jansen - Altintop, Van Bommel, Zé Roberto, Ribéry - Klose, Toni
Also in matchday squad: Rensing, Van Buyten, Ottl, Schweinsteiger, Schlaudraff, Podolski

Referee: Knut Kircher (Rottenburg)

Bayern's record in the fixture: P28 W12 D5 L11 F46 A48