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Runaway leader Bayern on brink of another record

Updated: 2013-03-30 08:12
By Agence France-Presse in Berlin ( China Daily)

Runaway leader Bayern on brink of another record

Runaway leader Bayern Munich can become the first team ever to secure the Bundesliga title before the end of March if it beats Hamburg on Saturday evening and other results go their way.

Borussia Dortmund has won the past two titles, but it currently sits 20 points adrift of Bayern in second place with eight games remaining.

If Juergen Klopp's side fails to win at Stuttgart on Saturday afternoon, record champion Bayern will be in a position to clinch its 23rd national title, and 22nd since the inception of the Bundesliga half a century ago.

However, it is inevitable the Bavarians will eventually get their hands on the 'Salad Bowl' trophy, and those at the club are not too concerned whether they do so this weekend, especially with the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Juventus to come on Tuesday.

Bayern players and staff insist all the focus is on Hamburg, but the prospect of any major celebrations if they do wrap up the title has been ruled out, with officials confirming there will be no trophy presentation at the Allianz Arena regardless of what happens.

"In the dressing room, we're talking exclusively about Hamburg," said midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. "That's our main focus. We need a good performance."

"Obviously, it would be an incredible moment but one we'd only be able to savor very briefly," sporting director Matthias Sammer told Bild of the possibility of wrapping up the championship.

"Preparation for the Juventus match will start immediately with a meal together at the stadium."

Bayern against Hamburg is a meeting of the traditional giants of southern and northern Germany, but while Bayern has long dominated the country's soccer scene, HSV is struggling to keep up.

In the past two campaigns, Bayern has won this fixture 6-0 and 5-0, and it has been 26 years since Hamburg last won a trophy, but the side coached by one-time Bayern star Thorsten Fink still has plenty of motivation.

Just a point adrift of the top four, it is one of several clubs still in contention for a place in the Champions League next season.

"Maybe some of them will be thinking about Juve," said Dutch international midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart.

"But Bayern want to wrap up the Bundesliga title as soon as possible. They have such strength in depth that it will be tough for us either way."

Dortmund has never really threatened to make it three consecutive titles, with top spot having eluded it all season.

Instead, the real focus for Klopp's team is the Champions League, with a trip to Spain to face Malaga in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Before that, Borussia heads to the south-west to take on Stuttgart, where it must do without winger Jakub Blaszczykowski as well as defender Mats Hummels.

Klopp, who recently accused Bayern of buying its way to success, is eager to keep those in Munich waiting as long as possible before being able to celebrate the title.

(China Daily 03/30/2013 page15)

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