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Toni and Ribéry sidelined

Injuries take toll ahead of last away trip

Ottmar Hitzfeld and the squad flew from Munich to Düsseldorf and then transferred to the team hotel in Essen on Friday evening, the last time the head coach supervises a Bayern party for an away Bundesliga fixture. On Saturday lunchtime, the team bus departs for the MSV Arena where the newly-crowned champions face Duisburg at 3.30 pm (Live in English from 3.15 pm CET on FCB.tv Web Radio).

The Bayern coach is leaving club football this summer, but there would be no place for sentiment on Saturday, he insisted after a final pre-match training session at the Säbener Straße. Instead, the General is relishing his last few days at the helm. The 59-year-old’s remaining games in charge are Duisburg, a benefit match in Darmstadt next Tuesday, the final Bundesliga fixture a week from now at home to Hertha BSC, and then two friendlies on the ten-day post-season Asia tour.

Zebras fighting for survival

Duisburg almost certainly represents the stiffest challenge for Hitzfeld and his team. Bayern have nothing but pride to play for after sealing the double last weekend, but the Zebras are still in a desperate fight for their top flight survival and must win to keep alive their faint hopes of avoiding the drop. “It’ll be a high-temperature match,” Hitzfeld warned.

The coach is without a clutch of his highest-profile stars. Alongside Hamit Altintop (rehab after surgery), Miroslav Klose (broken nose) and Lucio (operation on lower leg), household names Luca Toni and Franck Ribéry are both out injured. Ribéry has pulled a muscle and Toni has a bruised shin, Hitzfeld reported.

Kahn seeks new record

Willy Sagnol was omitted from the squad for the 2-0 home win against Bielefeld in midweek but returns at right-back in Duisburg, with Bastian Schweinsteiger also likely to be restored to the line-up. Hitzfeld declined to comment on how Bayern would cope with the loss of both Toni and Klose. Lukas Podolski may operate as a lone striker, or Hanover-bound Jan Schlaudraff could be in for a belated first league start at the club.

Between the sticks, Oliver Kahn approaches his final Bundesliga away match determined to help set a new record for the lowest number of goals conceded in a season. “I basically never thought I’d get another chance to get this close to the record, which was set at a time when there wasn’t a back-pass rule,” commented Kahn. With just 18 league goals against this season, the champions look a good bet to surpass Werder Bremen’s 20-year-old record of 22 conceded in 34 games.

Another milestone for Hitzfeld?

”It’s another reason to give it all we’ve got,” agreed Christian Lell. Hitzfeld has made the record an explicit target for the last two matches. “It would be good if we set the best defensive record of all time,” confirmed the Bayern boss. And as a final incentive, Bayern’s next goal will be the 500th scored by Munich sides under Hitzfeld.

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