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Top-of-the-table clash

Reds wary of 'very good' Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen’s Finnish coach Sami Hyypiä is not known for great shows of emotion, but even he and his team led by captain Simon Rolfes were caught up in the passion of Thursday evening’s basketball at the Audi Dome. The trip to watch Bayern’s hoops specialists was a welcome distraction following Leverkusen’s Champions League exit and prior to the Bundesliga clash at the Allianz Arena on Saturday (Live in English from 6.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). The Bayer stars, who travelled direct to Munich from Paris, saw a spectacular match and a sensational victory for Bayern’s basketballers against Real Madrid. The men from the Rhineland will be hoping the FCB footballers failed to turn in such a magnificent performance.

However, a great display is exactly what Munich’s fans and players are looking for. A home victory over the side lying third in the standings would be another milestone step for the Reds. “We have to be focused because we want to retain the title as soon as possible,” urged Pep Guardiola on Friday, “the team has to keep it up. This obviously means beating Leverkusen if we can.“

David Alaba was not alone in agreeing that Munich cannot afford complacency on Saturday evening. “They’ve proved plenty of times they’re a good team. We’ll need another show of strength,” the Austrian told Guardiola is just as wary: “Leverkusen are one of the best teams in the league. They’re very well organised defensively and good on the break.“

Only Badstuber sidelined

Whereas Bayern go into the Leverkusen match aiming to remain undefeated in the league for the 50th match in a row, Bayer have failed to win in seven. But the warning signs are there: the last Bundesliga team to take three points off FCB were Leverkusen, on 28 October 2012 in Munich. The Bayer players have not forgotten. “I guess hardly anyone thinks Bayern will lose again in the Bundesliga. But we have to try and make our own luck - just like we did a year and a half ago,” declared Bernd Leno.

The Leverkusen keeper could play a decisive role on Saturday evening, mused sporting director Rudi Völler: “We need Bernd Leno in outstanding form again.“ Leverkusen’s narrow 2-1 defeat away to star-studded Paris St. Germain in midweek “was actually a confidence-booster, but Bayern are another step up,“ Völler acknowledged. Hyypiä called on his men to show “the right attitude.” If so, “we could make life difficult even for Bayern.”

Lars Bender is set to return from injury for the visitors, with centre-back Emir Spahic also eligible again after missing the Champions League trip with suspension. As for Bayern, coach Guardiola again boasts an embarrassment of riches as only Holger Badstuber is definitely unavailable. Despite this the Spaniard concluded with a warning: “It’s never easy after Champions League matches. We need the support of our fans.“