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Vital victory

Bayern gear up for Dortmund showdown

At the final whistle on Wednesday evening in Freiburg, captain Philipp Lahm clenched his fists in triumph, his team-mates high-fived, and Jupp Heynckes beamed from ear to ear. There were no fireworks from FCB during an engrossing match, but it ended in what Thomas Muller described as an “enormously important" 2-0 victory. With nearest rivals Dortmund, Schalke and Frankfurt all dropping points the previous day, Heynckes’ men seized the opportunity and are already confirmed as ‘autumn champions’, an unofficial title awarded to the team top of the league at the midpoint of the season. Achieving that in just 14 matches is itself a new record.

Far more significantly, Bayern's lead over the new second-placed team Bayer Leverkusen is up to ten points, a near-perfect going-in position to the eagerly-awaited showdown with champions Dortmund on Saturday. “The autumn championship doesn't matter that much to me," said Heynckes, while Lahm reckoned it was “very, very important to spend the winter break in first place," although he also stressed that nothing has been won yet, and there are still a number of targets over the coming weeks.