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'We're a great team'

Neuer praises unity before top clash

FCB keeper Manuel Neuer has not missed a single minute in this season's Bundesliga campaign. The 29-year-old has kept a clean sheet in 12 of 19 league fixtures to date, playing his part in the Bavarians' comfortable lead in the standings. The three-time World's Best Goalkeeper has saved 77.5 percent of the shots on his goal, a best mark in the Bundesliga. At an average of 0.79 goals conceded per match Neuer is the best keeper in the league's history.

The world champion aims to underpin this tally in Saturday's top clash away to Bayer Leverkusen. However, Neuer does not harbour particularly fond memories of meetings with Leverkusen. He has finished on the losing side more often than against any other team: Neuer has won six of 18 matches, losing nine. It is hardly surprising that he issued a warning before the encounter with the side lying fourth in the table.

“As we’ve often seen, it's not an easy fixture, especially away from home,” declared Neuer after training at the Säbener Strasse facility on Thursday. Leverkusen are “a very aggressive team, they'll try to apply pressure early on, while we still have the ball in our own third.” But Neuer knows that the German record champions “have done a good job against many aggressive teams, and we'll try it this time too.”

Many options in defence

The build-up play from the Bavarians' own half will be a crucial factor. With Jérôme Boateng and Javi Martínez on the sidelines the only fit and recognised centre-back is Holger Badstuber. Mehdi Benatia is still in rehab, new signing Serdar Tasci misses out due to a minor concussion. Joshua Kimmich might deputise next to Badstuber, as he did against Hoffenheim last weekend.

“That worked well, we all had a good feeling,” said Neuer in praise of the 20-year-old, “he's a quick learner, very attentive and he turned in a good display against Hoffenheim.” Pep Guardiola might also install Rafinha or David Alaba instead of Kimmich in central defence. “We've seen in the past that we have players who can do a job in that position,” Neuer added.

It is also possible that Neuer will see only three FCB defenders in front of him. “It's not unusual for us, we're flexible in this regard,” the netminder declared. “We know that we have to take on this problem together. Every player has to serve the team so we can fill this gap.” Neuer emphasised the importance of team spirit: “We're still a great team and we stick together. We're there for each other.” The men from Munich are fired up to prove exactly that to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening.