Created on 23-02-2008 at 00:00 AM
Three days after a gala display in the UEFA Cup against Aberdeen, Bayern return to Bundesliga action with the chance to extend their lead at the top of the standings and put distance between themselves and another dangerous rival. Victory over Hamburg at the Allianz Arena on Sunday (Live in English from 4.45 pm on FCB.tv Web Radio) would kill two birds with one stone in the quest for a 21st German title.
“Hamburg are in a different class compared to Aberdeen,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld pointed out ahead of the showdown with the side in third. HSV are currently six points behind Bayern, so defeat would seriously dent any title ambitions of their own. Furthermore, after second-placed Werder Bremen’s surprise defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, a win for the men from Munich could stretch their lead to a reassuring six points.
“Hamburg keep it very tight and always try for a clean sheet. It’ll be the kind of match where we need a lot of patience,” Hitzfeld continued. Sunday’s visitors boast the second meanest defence in the section after Bayern with just 15 goals conceded, “so we’ll need cool heads and tactical intelligence,“ the 59-year-old concluded.
“You can’t just play carefree stuff and breeze past them, we’ll need to be smart and play thoughtful football.“ The right blend will be a prerequisite against one of the Bundesliga’s founding clubs. Aside from a well-organised back line, HSV boast “a couple of dangerous strikers,” Hitzfeld warned, “and we mustn’t allow them to get going. We need to concentrate for the full 90 minutes. We can’t allow ourselves any period of weakness.“
Uli Hoeneß understands the pivotal nature of the latest north v south showdown. “Every game is a six-pointer until the title race is over. HSV have played very well recently and are still in it at the top. A win would be good, otherwise we’re still only three points clear,” the Bayern manager admonished.
Bayern will be boosted by the return of Franck Ribéry from a hamstring strain. The Frenchman is part of the matchday squad for only the second time since the winter break, although Hitzfeld has not yet decided whether to start with his creative superstar: “I’ll make the decision on Sunday.“
HSV aiming high
The General is still without Martin Demichelis, currently working his way back from a torn calf muscle. Bernd Dreher will sit on the bench as the number two keeper as Michael Rensing is sidelined with flu. Willy Sagnol is rested, with Jan Schlaudraff and Breno not making the cut.
HSV won on both their last visits to the Allianz Arena and have no intention of rolling over and surrendering the points this time. “I’ve always said Bayern have the best team this season and will win the league, but we’re not going to Munich to hand out presents. We intend to take something from the game,” respected coach Huub Stevens declared.
Bayern matchday squad: Kahn, Dreher, Lucio, Van Buyten, Lell, Lahm, Jansen, Ribéry, Altintop, Zé Roberto, Ottl, Van Bommel, Sosa, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Toni, Podolski, Klose
Unavailable: Demichelis (calf), Rensing (flu), Sagnol, Schlaudraff, Breno, Fürstner (omitted)
Referee: Lutz Wagner (Hofheim)
Bayern’s record in the fixture: P42 W31 D6 L5 F108 A39