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‘We’ll concede fewer goals’

Defence takes priority in countdown to restart

Second division high-flyers Kaiserslautern stuck gamely to their task against Bayern on Monday night, trying time and again to release their pacy forwards on dangerous counter-attacks. However, the only real threat posed by the Red Devils came from long-range shots – and they never realistically looked likely to put one past Michael Rensing in the FCB goal. Champions Bayern are hoping that will often be the case once the second half of the 2008-9 campaign resumes next week.

Jürgen Klinsmann certainly approved of his team’s defensive efforts. “We were looking for better communication between our defence and midfield, and the lads were outstanding against Kaiserslautern in that respect,” the head coach advised the following day.

The season after

Klinsmann is working with the rearguard on keeping it tight, moving as a unit and pushing out fast when in possession. The reason for the focus on preventing goals is Bayern’s Bundesliga record in the first half of the campaign: 24 goals against in 17 Bundesliga fixtures is already three more than in the whole of last season. “But you can’t make that comparison,” objected Philipp Lahm, “that was an exceptional season, no one’s ever conceded fewer goals. And we also play very different football now.”

A more meaningful comparison is with the rest of the league, after a free-scoring first half of term probably taking its cue from a goal-rich Euro 2008. Bayern’s performance looks perfectly respectable in those terms, with only one more goal against than leaders Hoffenheim, and with only five teams boasting meaner defensive stats.

Nothing guaranteed

However, there was still work to do at the back, Lahm agreed. “Yes, we’ve let in too many goals, and we’ve also allowed leads to slip too often. We need to improve in the second half of term,” the left-back said. “We need to find the right balance between defence and attack.”