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Lahm wary of bottom club

FCB vow to retain top spot at Darmstadt

FC Bayern travel to face SV Darmstadt 98 at the Böllenfalltor Stadium on Sunday (Live in English from 15:30 CET in our live ticker and Web Radio) in their final away match of 2016, where the men from Munich aim to defend their recently-recovered first place in the standings. “It was a huge effort but we’re the leaders again, partly thanks to some neighbourly help from Ingolstadt, for which I want to say thank you,” commented chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “But we have two games to go and we need good results in both.”

The first of those matches is away to the Bundesliga’s bottom club, and Bayern are comfortable with their clear role as favourites. “We can’t afford the mistake of the league leaders losing to the bottom club. We have to beat Darmstadt in Darmstadt on Sunday,” Rummenigge urged. The Reds are chasing a fifth straight victory in all competitions. “We’re top of the league and want to stay there,” stated Carlo Ancelotti, noting that his men had been “focused” in a full week of training.

“Last season, Darmstadt were very tricky opponents,” recalled Mats Hummels, “but they’ve faded a little this season. Maybe they’ve now done what was needed to turn it around.” The Lilies have a new coach: the club parted company with previous boss Norbert Meier in early December after six straight defeats and promoted academy director Ramon Berndroth to interim coach until the end of the year. “Let’s see what happens,” Hummels commented.

“Ancelotti, idol of my youth”

“It’s dangerous, because we have the undisputed top clash straight afterwards,” warned captain Philipp Lahm. “But we want six points from the last two matches.” FCB comfortably won 3-0 in the corresponding fixture in September 2015, but Lahm is still wary: “Bayern have often had a tough time of it in Darmstadt. They’ll give it everything they’ve got and they’ll battle away, hoping to somehow take a point off us.” However, Ancelotti’s men have no intention of handing out early Christmas gifts: “It’s important we take the three points so we go into the last match against Leipzig as leaders.”

Darmstadt interim boss Berndroth reckons his men are fired up and ready for the clash with the record champions. “There’s always a chance, provided we do our jobs right through to the 95th or 98th minute,” said the 64-year-old on the eve of his second match as a Bundesliga coach. “Everyone’s up for it, they’ll all put their bodies and souls into the game. It’s a good going-in position.” The Lilies aim to rely on the qualities typically associated with SV Darmstadt, according to their coach: “We’ll stick to the things we do well. We won’t bother with the things we can’t do,” he explained. On a personal level, Berndroth is especially looking forward to meeting Ancelotti. “He’s one of the idols of my youth. As a coach, I have huge respect for his career.”