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FCB away to Hoffenheim

A record way of defending the top spot

It began in Hamburg, of all places. A 3-0 victory on 3 November 2012 was the start of an unbeaten run for FC Bayern which, almost a year to the day later, can equal the Bundesliga record set 30 years by SV Hamburg. If the German champions get through Saturday's away game in Hoffenheim (3:30 p.m., live on the Ticker and on unscathed, they will have gone through 36 league matches without defeat, as Hamburg did in 1982-83. Who could ask for better motivation? 

But for Pep Guardiola and his players the record is a secondary consideration. "It's a great thing for the club, something extraordinary, but for the team all that matters is winning and playing well," said the Bayern coach, noting that Bayern's rivals in the title hunt are just waiting for the Reds to slip up. A win matters first of all as a way of defending Bayern 's position at the top of the table.

"Records aren't as important as titles," said Arjen Robben, stressing the team's focus on the championship this season. "We have the opportunity to equal a record, which is great, but Bayern's goal is always winning," said Philipp Lahm, who expects strong resistance in Hoffenheim from the home side: "It's a very difficult fixture. We've always had a tough time in Hoffenheim in the past few years."

Wary of the home forwards

The statistics make clear why the ninth-ranking Bundesliga side are a force to be reckoned with: with 25 goals Hoffenheim are currently the most prolific team in the league, and the attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Anthony Modeste and Kevin Volland account for 18 of those on their own. "Hoffenheim have great quality going forward," Guardiola said. "We have to control the game and keep Hoffenheim's dangerous forwards away from our penalty area."

Appreciating the absence at last of a midweek fixture, the Bayern coach has been able to let his team relax, then prepare calmly for Saturday's match. "The quiet week has done us good, but now it begins again," said Robben, again eager for action, although it's not clear whether the Dutchman will be involved in Hoffenheim since he's still struggling for fitness.

Dante ready to return

Things look "better" for Toni Kroos, who had to be substituted last weekend, according to Guardiola. The coach expects both players to be available next week if Saturday is too soon. But Dante at least has been back in training with the team since Wednesday after recovering from an ankle laceration and is ready to return in Hoffenheim.

"When you play Bayern you know there will be world-class players all over the pitch, no matter whom Guardiola decides to pick," said Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol. "I'm not going to talk up Bayern, but at the moment they are probably the best team in the world. You need to be on top form to live with them." But he added: "We're going to do our utmost to put our stamp on the game. What do we have to lose?"