Created on 28-03-2008 at 00:00 AM
The visitors are hot favourites for the title, but the home team are fighting to avoid the drop. The going-in position ahead of the 50th Bundesliga meeting between Bavarian neighbours 1. FC Nürnberg and Bayern at the Franken stadium on Saturday (Live in English from 3.15 pm on FCB.tv Web Radio) could hardly be more contrasting: the men from the state capital are seven points clear of Hamburger SV at the top, but FCN are second from bottom, two points adrift of safety.
"We know Nürnberg are fighting for their lives and their place in the first division," commented Ottmar Hitzfeld, whose final visit to Franconia as a coach has special significance: Bayern lost the corresponding fixture 3-0 last term, throwing a damper over the General's comeback as FCB coach 14 months ago. "It was a nasty wake-up call," Hitzfeld recalled, "but I'm hoping we can banish that memory. I don't think it'll happen a second time.“
Time to react
After a poor display in their last away game against Cottbus, Bayern need to "show a reaction," Hitzfeld demanded. "This is a chance to restore our image. I hope my team has taken the lessons from the Cottbus game to heart.“ Gala displays at home to Wolfsburg and Leverkusen last week are the yardstick for Saturday. "I want us to show the right attitude, which we failed to do in Cottbus.“
However, the 59-year-old continued, "Saturday will be very different to Leverkusen. Nuremberg will run and run, and make life difficult for us.“ Hitzfeld urged his team not to shirk their tackles, taking the three points with "willingness and fighting spirit. We're going there aiming to win.“
Nürnberg better than league position
The General warned his men not to underestimate a struggling team for the second time. "Nürnberg have plenty of potential, otherwise they wouldn't have won the Cup last year nor got through the UEFA Cup group stage," Hitzfeld admonished, "I don't regard 1. FC Nürnberg as relegation candidates. They have very good individuals up front, and our defenders will be kept busy.“
The side lying second from bottom were much less solid at the back, Hitzfeld pointed out. "We need to get into the gaps and attack efficiently," he continued, voicing hopes that "Nürnberg try and play football“ and not simply mass on the 18-yard line. "I do think it'll be a good and exciting game.“
No insurmountable cushion
If the men from Nuremberg had been hoping for a neighbourly helping hand, they are destined to be disappointed. The leaders know what to expect after the reverse in Cottbus, and also realise that their lead could easily melt away. "Seven points is not an insurmountable cushion, so we can't allow it to be cut back a second time.“
Hitzfeld is without Hamit Altintop (metatarsal), Willy Sagnol (neck) and the suspended Mark van Bommel. Toni Kroos is staying in Munich to assist the third division south reserves on Saturday. Marcell Jansen and Martin Demichelis returned from international duty with minor knocks, but both have been declared fit for the weekend.