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Rivals slip-up

FCB eye chance to open up ten-point gap

With the club and the media still abuzz after Thursday’s “Miracle of Getafe“ in the UEFA Cup, Bayern need to refocus on the bread and butter of the league against Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena on Sunday (Live in English from 4.45 pm on Web Radio), a match widely billed as a dress rehearsal for the German Cup final on 19 April in Berlin, when the sides meet for the second time in six days.

“The league title is our focus. We want all three points,” Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld demanded ahead of the meeting with his former club, “although the Cup final is obviously in the back of our minds,” the General acknowledged. Victory over the side lying eleventh in the table is therefore doubly important, not only as another step on the road to a 21st domestic title, “but also to lay down a marker for the Cup final.“

Chance beckons

“But we want to wrap up the league as quickly as possible,” chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge urged. “We want to win because we want to maintain or possibly extend our lead. It’s an opportunity we intend to take,” the former world-class striker intoned. Going into the weekend, Bayern were nine points clear of second-placed Schalke 04, but Bremen leapfrogged the Royal Blues with a thumping 5-1 triumph when the pair met on Saturday. The upshot is that a win for home side on Sunday would see their lead stretched to ten points.

However, for that to happen, the men in red know they will have to improve on the midweek performance in the suburbs of Madrid. “We didn’t play to our potential in Getafe,” Rummenigge observed. “The game unquestionably cost us a lot of energy,” the chairman continued, “but now it’s time to show character and morale, and win Sunday’s match.“

Danger from Dortmund

Hitzfeld acknowledged his players’ weariness, but also felt the midweek result would be a boost to morale. “We were successful. We staved off a defeat and made our own luck. That’s release reserves of energy,” the General remarked, warning his side to beware Dortmund, now unbeaten in three: “There are two sides to their character. On a good day they’re a match for anyone, but on a bad day they get beaten, especially away from home.“

Bayern are not without selection problems. Hamit Altintop (metatarsal) and Mark van Bommel (suspension) are definitely out, with Franck Ribéry and Marcell Jansen rated doubtful. Club medic Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt ruled out the possibility of serious injury to either player, and both will continue to receive treatment before fitness tests and final decisions on Sunday.

Twenty-strong squad

The club ultimately took 20 players to a pre-match retreat, including Daniel van Buyten, available again after shaking off a knee problem. “We’ll make sure we have a good line-up capable of beating Dortmund at home,” said Hitzfeld, predicting “an exciting game. We’re looking forward to the first of two meetings with Dortmund inside six days.“

Borussia, who have not won on their last 15 visits to Munich, are hoping to reverse that trend. “There are plenty of teams who’d love to play Bayern twice in a week,” declared BVB coach Thomas Doll, believing the way the fixtures had worked out “was neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. In any case, you can’t choose who you play. One’s a league game, one’s a finale with a trophy at stake.“