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Top-of-the-table derby

FCB aim to seal top spot at Xmas

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Augsburg has generally been a good place for Bayern to visit, with a short bus trip there and back, usually with three points on board for the return journey. However, that was not the case last season, when home team FCA brought FCB’s stunning run of 53 league fixtures without defeat to an end. The score was 1-0 to Augsburg, although Bayern were already confirmed champions when the sides met in early April this year. Furthermore, with a Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United on the horizon, Pep Guardiola vigorously rotated his squad.

As a result, the Spaniard was unwilling to spend too much time reflecting on that defeat when he addressed Friday’s pre-match press conference. He is expecting his team to show a different side to their character in the Bavarian derby on Saturday (Live in English from 15:30 / 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). “It’s a whole new game and you can’t make comparisons. We’ll try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We need the points to maintain or extend our lead,” Guardiola declared.

FCB currently hold a seven-point advantage over VfL Wolfsburg, and are 12 ahead of the team in third – the very same FC Augsburg, who have won their last five straight matches at home and have never been better-placed in the Bundesliga. “Augsburg have done very well up to now,” acknowledged Franck Ribéry, “we’ll need to play well because it’s never easy at their place. We need to focus.” 

Injury situation easing

Guardiola is equally aware of the tough challenge ahead. “They have nothing to lose. It’s a small pitch, the stadium will be full, it’s a derby, they’re aggressive, they play with passion, and they have some quick players.” For all that, Bayern are overwhelming favourites going into the clash. Guardiola was able to rest the likes of Xabi Alonso and Rafinha for the midweek Champions League meeting with CSKA Moscow, while Ribéry, Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski played only a half each.

And far from there being any new injuries to report, both Claudio Pizarro (torn muscle) and Xherdan Shaqiri (groin) resumed team training this week and could be fit enough for squad duty. Moreover, Bastian Schweinsteiger is making rapid progress after recovering from a knee injury and covered a full 90 minutes for the first time since the summer against CSKA. “He was good,” Guardiola said approvingly.

Should Bayern win, they would be crowned the unofficial ‘autumn champions’ – a title awarded to the club lying top of the table at the midpoint of the season – with two games to spare. It would be the fourth time in a row the Reds have been top of the table at Christmas, a feat never before achieved in Bundesliga history. The unofficial ‘title’ would not prompt a major celebration at the club, but it would surely ensure a buoyant mood on the one-hour bus trip home.

Pre-match news from Augsburg

  • Unavailable: Marvin Hitz (cruciate), Jan Moravek (cruciate), Tim Matavz (ankle), Ronny Philp (rehab), S. Parker (rehab)
  • Coach Markus Weinzierl: “Bayern are obviously runaway favourites, but we’ll rouse ourselves and see if we can cause a sensation. We’re looking for a point, because we can’t always only win or lose. But if Bayern allow us the chance of all three points, we intend to take it. Our victory last season and our performances this season mean they certainly won’t underestimate us.”