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Top clash in Leverkusen

FCB aim to 'maintain our cushion at the top’

It is Carnival time in Germany, and the traditional pre-Lent revelries will soon come to a climax in the vast Rose Monday parades in the festival’s strongholds of Cologne and Düsseldorf. The atmosphere is already merry and light-hearted in both cities on the Rhine, but it is still relatively calm in Leverkusen, situated right between Cologne and Düsseldorf. However, this is about to change on Saturday evening: Leverkusen be pulsating and uproarious when Bayer 04 take on FC Bayern in the Bundesliga's top clash (Live in English from 18.30 CET on Twitter and Web Radio).

“We're up against one of the best teams in Germany,” commented FCB coach Pep Guardiola, who is looking forward to the challenge which marks the beginning of an arduous week with three away matches in a row: Bayern travel to face second division Bochum in the DFB Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday before taking on Augsburg in the Bavarian derby on Sunday. “The week's going to be very complicated,” warned Guardiola.

But first the German record champions are fully focused on the encounter with Leverkusen, as they know how tough it is going to be. “They apply a lot of pressure,” keeper Manuel Neuer cautioned. Bayer have lost only one of their last eight home matches against the men from Munich. Leverkusen started the second half of the Bundesliga campaign with a victory and a draw and could consolidate a spot in the top four with a win against the Reds.

'We're ready'

Guardiola knows his men will have to be on their guard against Leverkusen's potent attacking duo, Mexico international Javier Hernández and Stefan Kießling. Chicharito, who has scored 13 Bundesliga goals so far this season, is particularly dangerous: “His nose for goal in the box is exceptional,” said Guardiola. Leverkusen have won four of their last five competitive fixtures with the two forwards on the pitch, scoring 13 goals and conceding two, with one game ending in a draw. But the Catalan stressed: “Bayer Leverkusen aren’t only Kießling and Chicharito.”

The selection situation at FCB has not changed since the 2-0 victory over Hoffenheim last Sunday. Mario Götze resumed the squad programme at the beginning of the week, but the match will probably come too early for him. New signing Serdar Tasci misses out due to a minor concussion.

Joshua Kimmich might deputise once more next to Holger Badstuber in central defence. “We're absolutely on track, our situation in the table is comfortable. We want to maintain our cushion at the top and show no weaknesses because Dortmund are in top form,” declared Manuel Neuer. Guardiola added: “We're confident and ready for our game.”

Pre-match news from Leverkusen

Unavailable: Charles Aranguiz, Lars Bender (both rehab), Robbie Kruse (toe)

Coach Roger Schmidt: “The match is a big challenge. We want to win it if we can. It's clear we’ll need a really superb day, and we’ll have to play with lots of courage.”