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'Within reach'

FCB take crucial step towards title glory

The finishing line in the race for the Bundesliga title is firmly in sight for FC Bayern. After Saturday's clear-cut victory over Schalke the Bavarians could theoretically wrap up the top flight crown next week. Unsurprisingly, everybody in the Bayern camp agreed with Mario Götze, who said after the final whistle: “Overall it was a crucial step towards the championship title.”

Coach Pep Guardiola also dreams of a third Bundesliga triumph in his third year with Bayern: “Two more victories and we're German champions,” the 45-year-old calculated. “The championship shield is within reach, but we know anything can happen in football. We get nothing for free,” added keeper Manuel Neuer and cautioned against premature complacency in the title race.

Especially in the first half of Saturday's match it was obvious that the final few steps towards winning the Bundesliga are not going to be easy. Schalke's defensive tactics with a 5-4-1 formation worked out well at first: the visitors were disciplined and aggressive before the break. “We lacked rhythm and changes of pace,” criticised Neuer, who celebrated his 200th Bundesliga victory against his former team-mates.

Self-critical Bayern

“At half-time we all knew we didn't play really well,” revealed skipper Philipp Lahm three days after the exhausting Champions League match away to Benfica. “We were much too slow. Thank God we improved in the second half.” A brace by striker Robert Lewandowski (54, 65), who is now on 27 goals for the campaign, and a goal by the influential Arturo Vidal (73) wrapped up a 25th league victory for Bayern.

“It's always a matter of time before we score. In the second half we had more space, and we had our chances as a result,” commented Götze. Despite the victory Guardiola was not fully satisfied with the display. “I'm a little dismayed by our performance. We played football for 35 minutes, not more,” the FCB head coach critically observed.

The Catalan saw room for improvement, especially in view of the upcoming do-or-die encounters with Werder Bremen in the cup and Atlético in the Champions League semi-finals. “I'm pleased about the victory of course. We've taken a big step in the league, now we want to go through to the cup final. I hope this match was a lesson for the game against Bremen on Tuesday.”