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Touchline face-off

Title expert van Gaal v FCB specialist Köstner

As Barcelona is to Bayern, Excelsior is to Louis van Gaal. Back in April 2007, the coach suffered the most heartbreaking defeat of his career away to the Rotterdam side. Van Gaal’s Alkmaar went into the last day as Eredivisie leaders, but lost 3-2 to third from bottom Excelsior and slid to third in the standings, a last-gasp trauma comparable to Bayern’s 1999 Champions League final defeat in Barcelona. “It was unbelievably disappointing,” Van Gaal admits today.

However, the bitter experience means the FCB boss is relatively relaxed about the situation in the Bundesliga. “We need to be top after the last day,” he said, "not now in mid-February." Van Gaal also understands the special circumstances surrounding Bayern. “All our opponents are doubly motivated, every opponent works harder against Bayern than against other teams. That’s why it’s hard to win the league with Bayern,” he pointed out, “I know it from Barcelona and Ajax.”

Broad experience

Van Gaal speaks from experience. He has won the league with all his previous clubs - Ajax, Barcelona and with Alkmaar too. On Saturday, he faces an opposite number who has never won a trophy as a head coach. But Wolfsburg caretaker boss Lorenz-Günther Köstner boasts a pedigree of a different sort: he has won two of his five meetings with Bayern.

In 1997-8 he led Köln to a 2-0 victory, and in 2000-2001 he was Unterhaching coach for a 1-0 win. Both victories came in February, and on Saturday, he again faces Bayern in the second month of the year. “Maybe it’s a good omen,” said the seasoned coach, who took the Wolves helm a week ago.