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Neuer and Lahm

'This fixture always feels like a final'

Dortmund versus Bayern is a truly mouth-watering prospect, and even the slightly unusual going-in position in April 2015 changes nothing. “We benchmark ourselves against the best. This fixture always feels like a final,” said Manuel Neuer on Thursday, two days ahead of the clash between Bayern and the side lying tenth in the table, who have not hit their normal highs in the Bundesliga this term. “Everyone looks forward to this match, there’s always a fantastic atmosphere at the stadium. And it’s been comfortably the biggest game in German football in recent years,” the Germany keeper continued.

There is still an edge to the game on this occasion, as Bayern are determined at least to maintain their ten-point advantage over second-placed Wolfsburg. For their part, BVB could still qualify for the Europa League next season. “I don’t believe Dortmund will park the bus. They’ll want to put on a show at home,” stated Neuer. FCB will have to stand their ground and fight – without a clutch of top players including Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Javi Martínez and now also Franck Ribéry.

However, it’s no use complaining, as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told FCB.tv in no uncertain terms on Wednesday. “The team will have to cope,” captain Philipp Lahm echoed on Thursday. “We won’t have worse players on the pitch, just different types of player. I don’t see it as a problem.” Neuer voiced a similar opinion: “We’ll be playing with a different starting formation, but it’s not a 1B version, we’re still 1A.”

Big games coming thick and fast

Lahm could well make a comeback in the starting line-up in Dortmund. “I’ve been training for four weeks straight now, and that means I’m match fit,” the former Germany skipper declared. Thiago is also close to full fitness. “He’s making a very, very strong impression on me,” said Lahm. Neuer confirmed that the Spaniard is giving it 100 percent in training. “He doesn’t come across as if he’s been out such a long time with injury.”

Nevertheless, the Reds know they must be cautious, as even Bayern can barely afford another injury setback. “We’re approaching the weeks when it really starts to count,” noted Neuer. “It’s coming thick and fast now. We have no more time to relax and we know what’s at stake.” The schedule features seven games in the next 21 days, but despite the long injury list Bayern’s number one feels he and his team-mates are “heading in the right direction. At the end of the day, we’re top of the table.”