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Second v third

FCB wary of ‘very dangerous’ Leverkusen

The views from Bayern’s team hotel in Cologne are agreeable and impressive, with the famous cathedral in the background and the mighty river Rhine in front. In the local dialect, a heavily accented language all of its own with hints of Dutch and even English, the river is called de Rhing, and it remorselessly carries with it everything around, including the autumn leaves, the Rähndroppe falling from the heavens on Friday, and metaphorically also Bayern’s 3-1 triumph away to Manchester City.

It was a gala performance, but it counts for nothing on Saturday evening (live in English from 6.30 pm CET on Web Radio) when FCB travel 15 km up river to the big match of the weekend in Leverkusen. “Against Man City, we played the way we want to be playing. But we start again from scratch tomorrow and have to do it all over again out on the field,” noted Toni Kroos.

The 23-year-old, who spent 2009/10 on loan to Leverkusen and played alongside current Bayer coach Sami Hyypiä, expects “a very, very difficult away game” against the side lying second in the table. “Leverkusen are in great shape. If they win, they’ll overtake us.“ Pep Guardiola was equally cautious: “Leverkusen are only one point behind us. They’re very dangerous.”

The superb victory in Manchester “belongs to the past,“ as Guardiola said, but Munich’s triumph in north-west England provided a real boost ahead of the clash at the BayArena, which will be broadcast live in 204 countries, a new record for the Bundesliga. The treble winners have returned to Germany with no new injury problems, and FCB also have the slight psychological edge of being the last Bundesliga club to win in Leverkusen.

However, the home side are on a roll of their own. The Werkself (works team, so called because of the club’s origins as the Bayer corporation factory team) have made their best-ever start to a league season and are themselves the last Bundesliga team to beat Bayern. That was a 2-1 victory in Munich in October 2012, but the Reds have since gone 32 top-flight matches without defeat and are closing in on Hamburg’s record of 36.

“We respect them, but we’re not scared,” insisted Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno. “Bayern are the best team in the world. but we’re at home, and we’ll try everything we know to take our chance,” added Jens Hegeler. Coach Hyypiä, a former Liverpool stalwart, called for “belief“ and “desire“ from his players: “conceding defeat now would be stupid.“

Et kütt wie et kütt

Kroos is unsure as to Leverkusen’s approach to the match. “Leverkusen aren’t normally the kind of team to set out their stall and defend. They go out there trying to play football. but so do quite a few teams in the Bundesliga - until they play Bayern!” said the midfielder: “Sami Hyypiä will definitely have seen our game in Manchester.“

As they say in the Kölsch dialect, Et kütt wie et kütt, or “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be,” and Bayern will have to take it as it comes in the Rhineland on Saturday. In any case, the men from Munich know the outcome of the match is basically up to them. The plan is to complete a seventh victory in seven matches within the space of 22 days, ensuring a celebratory and upbeat mood for the annual team visit to the Oktoberfest on Sunday.