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South v North

FCB keen to seal top spot at Christmas

For the final home match of the year, the Allianz Arena will be ablaze in colour. The stadium will glow green and gold, and of course red. Festivities are in order at the end of a historic treble-winning year, and FC Bayern wish to thank their fans for such wonderful support. The magnificent stadium was a hive of activity on Friday as cables were laid and black boxes installed around the pitch and under the roof. It is all so that the 71,000 capacity crowd can enjoy a spectacular festive laser show following Bayern’s home Bundesliga meeting with Hamburg on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio).

But before then Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribéry and Co are hoping to provide some fireworks of their own with a 16th victory in 16 home league fixtures this year. That would ensure FCB win the so-called autumn championship, the unofficial title for the team top of the standings at the midpoint of the campaign, for the 19th time. “We want to beat HSV, and we have to because we want to make sure we’re autumn champions. Our goal is to go into the winter break as leaders,” declared Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Pep Guardiola emphasised the significance of the match. “Winning is important to keep our rivals at arms’ length. We’ve fought hard to open up this gap, and we don’t want to lose it,” commented the FCB coach. “I have a feeling people think the Bundesliga is already over, but that’s not true! It’s only December.”

Morocco beckons

Guardiola admitted he was unsure how his men would respond to the Champions League defeat against Manchester City last Tuesday: “I don’t know how we’ll react. But normally it’s easier to focus after defeats.” The coach is hoping the 3-2 reverse will restore Bayern’s edge in the run-up to the mid-season break. “I hope the team has understood this: they were the best team in Europe last season, but now with a new coach we’re not yet the best in Europe! We have a lot of work to do if we’re to be champions again.”

In the build-up to the 97th clash between the biggest clubs in the north and south of Germany, the men from Munich cannot entirely ignore the forthcoming Club World Cup in Morocco, where they will fly immediately after Saturday’s league fixture. “We want to beat HSV and maintain our successful run. It’s important so we go to Morocco feeling good,” noted Manuel Neuer.

Alaba and Martínez doubtful

Hamburg arrive in the Bavarian capital on the back of a fine away run. The northerners have lost only one of their last five matches on the road and have scored at least once in every match, with an average of almost three goals per game. “We need to be courageous and play our own football,” urged boss Bert van Marwijk, instructing his men to take a risk or two at the Allianz Arena, despite the fact they are up against “one of the best teams in the world at the moment - possibly the best.” But, the Dutchman defiantly added: “I never travel to a match accepting I’m going to lose.”

HSV are without in-form keeper René Adler (ankle), goal-getter Maximilian Beister (suspension) and Ivo Ilicevic (compassionate leave). FCB’s definite absentees are injured trio Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Holger Badstuber, while Jérôme Boateng sits out a one-match ban. David Alaba (finger) and Javi Martínez (shoulder) are nursing injuries, “and it’s not yet certain whether they’ll play,” Guardiola reported. Both players will undergo fitness tests on matchday.