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Sosa set to start

Hitzfeld demands complete concentration

Bite, passion and desire, the qualities club captain Oliver Kahn said had been missing of late, reappeared in spades during last week’s victory in Bielefeld. The same attributes will undoubtedly be required when Bayern entertain MSV Duisburg on Saturday (Live in English from 3.15 pm CET on Web Radio), although the leaders will attempt to play attractive football as well.

“We need to find the right balance between determination and skill,” commented coach Ottmar Hitzfeld ahead of Friday’s final training session. “Winning is what counts in the first instance,” added full-back Philipp Lahm, “but we also want to play well. We’d like to offer our fans an attractive and commanding performance.“

Leaders at Christmas

Munich have topped the table since opening day, and are aiming to take another step towards the self-proclaimed goal of winning the so-called ‘Winter championship’, the unofficial title bestowed on the side leading the Bundesliga at the halfway mark. “Obviously we want to be winter champions,” confirmed Daniel van Buyten, “so we must take three points at home to Duisburg.” Hitzfeld agreed: “We’ll do whatever it takes to finish as winter champions.”

Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called for victory in Saturday’s meeting with the Zebras, and in the last match before Christmas away to Hertha BSC Berlin, “so we go into the winter break as leaders.“ Should Bayern beat MSV, and second-placed Werder Bremen simultaneously lose to Hannover 96, top spot over the festive season would be secure in any case.

Duisburg’s potential

Duisburg are languishing second from bottom on just 12 points, and their solitary victory in Munich came 40 years ago, but Hitzfeld insisted a home win was far from guaranteed. “They might not just come here and defend, and that would suit us fine,” the General mused, although he is nothing if not a realist: “It’ll be another of those games where the first job is to prise open a packed defence.“

Before travelling down to Bavaria, MSV coach Rudi Bommer insisted his men would try and penetrate the Munich rearguard: “We’ll put them under pressure down the flanks and take an attacking attitude. We won’t simply withdraw into defence.” However, after the subsequent loss of five-goal Manasseh Ishiaku to injury (hamstring), that appears a lot less likely. Hitzfeld still issued a warning: “They have potential and a couple of good players we’ll need to watch.“

Sosa or Schweinsteiger

In terms of Hitzfeld’s line-up, Van Buyten will again stand in for the suspended Lucio at centre-half, with José Ernesto Sosa set for a first start at the Allianz Arena in place of Hamit Altintop (knee surgery). However, Bastian Schweinsteiger has shaken off a knee problem of his own and is also a candidate for the position “I won’t finalise the line-up until Saturday,” Hitzfeld revealed.

Regardless of the 58-year-old’s team selection, he demanded 100 percent effort from his players. “We mustn’t lose concentration. Dropping by as little as 10 or 20 percent can be dangerous in professional sport.“ Oliver Kahn could hardly have phrased it better.

Probable line-ups:

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

MSV Duisburg: Starke - Weber, Filipescu, Schlicke, Willi - Grlic, Tararache - Georgiew, Idrissou, Mokhtari - Lavric

Referee: Babak Rafati (Hanover)

Bayern’s record in the fixture: P25 W21 D3 L1 F78 A27