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No holds barred

Schalke showdown for battle-ready Bayern

Not so very long ago, Bayern’s away trips to Schalke 04 were not merely a battle against the men in Royal Blue and their passionate fans. There was also the Curse of the Arena to contend with. In the six seasons after Schalke left the venerable Parkstadion in 2001 in favour of the state-of-the-art Veltins Arena, Bayern failed to record a single victory in Gelsenkirchen. But at the start of 2008, third division Wuppertal elected to switch a Cup meeting with Bayern to Schalke’s home ground – and the men from Munich won 5-2. Just a month later, the Bavarians finally recorded a first league victory over Schalke at the previously impenetrable stadium.

All good things come in threes, so the proverb goes, and Bayern travel to the Ruhr valley on Sunday (Live in English from 4.45 pm CET on FCB.tv Web Radio) aiming to make it a treble at the Arena in 2008. “Schalke are title rivals. It’s important we get a result, so we can start to focus on top spot in the table,” FCB coach Jürgen Klinsmann declared, urging his men to go full-out for a fifth Bundesliga triumph on the bounce.

It is only the twelfth match of the league programme, but a glance at the standings indicates just how important Sunday’s game could be for the weeks to come. Before the weekend, Bayern occupied third spot, four points off leaders TSG Hoffenheim and three behind second-placed Bayer Leverkusen. The Rhineland side tossed away a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 away to Karlsruhe on Saturday, so a win in Gelsenkirchen would see Klinsmann’s side’s make up ground. Hoffenheim are away to Hertha BSC on Sunday.

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