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Battle for top spot

Arminia clash takes on must-win character

Three days after a taxing 1-1 draw in Braga, Bayern travel to the half-reconstructed SchücoArena in Bielefeld on Sunday (Live in English from 4.45 pm on FCB.tv Web Radio) expecting another physical encounter. “It’ll be a fight to the end,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld warned. In contrast to the outcome in Portugal, the Bavarians are aiming to come away with a win. “We want to be top at Christmas, so three points are essential,” Hitzfeld demanded.

The situation is all the more pressing in the wake of Werder Bremen’s 2-1 defeat of Hamburg on Saturday, propelling Werder to the top of the standings overnight. Munich can only recover first place by taking all three points. “We’re in a must-win situation,” Hitzfeld acknowledged.

Problems in the past

The head coach called for his men to improve compared to midweek. “It’ll be difficult if we take the attitude we had in Braga. We need to be ten or twenty percent more aggressive. We won’t win the league with stylish football alone.“ Hitzfeld announced his intention to take the squad to one side and make his feelings unmistakeably clear before kick-off.

The coach will be aware of Bayern’s patchy record in Bielefeld, with just one win in their last four visits, and a 2-1 defeat last term. “Bielefeld has never been easy,” Hitzfeld reflected, “we’ll have to go to the limit on Sunday.“

Kroos in, Lucio and Sagnol out

Arminia began superbly this term and were second after five matches, but their subsequent slide to 14th, with just one win in nine, has not gone unnoticed in Bavaria. “They’re in a trough at the moment and short of confidence. That’s what we need to exploit from the start,” offered Hamit Altintop.

Hitzfeld believes solidity and commitment will be key. “We have to play as a team, full of running and resolve,” declared the coach. Lucio serves the second game of a four-match suspension on Sunday, with Daniel van Buyten again slated to stand in. Observers at final training reckoned Toni Kroos could start in place of Altintop, while Willy Sagnol is unavailable with a minor injury.

Beetle versus Porsche

Bielefeld also make an enforced change: veteran coach Ernst Middendorp is without Matthias Langkamp (strain), with Czech stopper Petr Gabriel set to return from a three-month lay-off in his place. The strugglers are up for it against the Bavarians, according to Middendorp: “My players are looking forward to this chance. Determination can take you a long way, even against Bayern.”

The Arminia boss reckons his men could fight their way out of the slump, despite the calibre of Sunday’s opponents. “It’s like a VW Beetle against a Porsche,” he mused, “but we’re not on the motorway, we’re in the town centre, and we’ll have to see whether the Beetle has an advantage in some places.“ Gabriel agreed: “Provided we can keep it goalless for as long as possible, we might pull off a miracle.“

Probable line-ups:

Arminia Bielefeld: Hain - Korzynietz, Kucera, Gabriel, Schuler - Kauf - Kamper, Marx, Böhme - Zuma, Wichniarek

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

Referee: Weiner (Giesen)

Bayern’s record in the fixture: P15 W9 D2 L4 F28 A19