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Last top-of-the-table clash

FCB eye chance to stifle Bayer threat

Bayern are fired up and ready to go in the last top-of-the-table clash of the season this Saturday, when third-placed Bayer Leverkusen visit the Allianz Arena (Live in English from 3.15 pm on Web Radio). After draws with Bremen and Hamburg, and victory away to Schalke, a win at the weekend would see the Bavarians put nine points between themselves and the men from the Rhineland.

“The pressure’s on Leverkusen, not us,” commented Bayern captain Oliver Kahn, “we could knock Leverkusen out of the title race.“ Victory over Bayer would hardly hand Bayern the championship shield on a plate, but given the fixtures through to the end of the season – almost all the remaining title aspirants still have to face each other – it would represent a major stride towards a 21st German league title.

No more slip-ups

“I hope we keep going where we left off against Wolfsburg,” remarked chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Bayern bounced back from last weekend’s shock 2-0 defeat away to bottom club Energie Cottbus with a thoroughly convincing win over the Wolves in the German Cup semi-finals. “We need to prove we can get the job done in the Bundesliga. We can’t afford any more slip-ups, because it’s still tight at the top, despite our five-point lead.“

“Wednesday’s win will give us a real lift. If we beat Leverkusen, we’ll keep a title rival safely at arm’s length,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld agreed. However, the General and his men know Bayer are certain to prove a tougher proposition than Wolfsburg in the Cup.

Hitzfeld expects stern challenge

“They’re an attacking team who pass the ball exceptionally well. I do think it’ll be a very hard match,” offered Miroslav Klose, keen to return to the Bundesliga goal trail after netting against the Wolves. “Leverkusen are dangerous rivals. They’ll definitely be looking for a point, or even all three. We just have to play like we did against Wolfsburg,” Franck Ribéry added.

“Leverkusen are having a good season. The team has bags of potential,” Hitzfeld warned ahead of final training in Munich on Friday. “If you let them get going, they can wipe the floor with anyone,” the General continued, urging his men to produce a solid and disciplined performance: “We’ll have to put in a lot of very hard work.“

Skibbe aiming for a point

Hitzfeld made no secret of his relief at the return of Mark van Bommel from suspension. “He’s a leader who drives the team on. I’m delighted he’s available again.“ Luca Toni, banned in the Cup, also returns to the line-up. The General is without Christian Lell (suspended) and Willy Sagnol (injured).

Leverkusen have won many admirers this term with an attractive brand of attacking football, “but we’d be happy to come away with a point,“ boss Michael Skibbe confessed. His players would like more than that: “Every series comes to an end, and it’s time this one did,“ midfielder Simon Rolfes declared in the light of Bayer’s failure to win in Munich for some 18 years, but Skibbe remained realistic: “Bayern are outstanding and dependable, and that won’t change over the remaining games. We’re not consistent enough yet.“

Probable line-ups:

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

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

Referee: Florian Meyer (Burgdorf)

Bayern’s record in the fixture: P28 W21 D5 L2 F64 A25