Bundesliga title chasers set to clash
Bayern Munich are hunting their first win over Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund for two years on Wednesday in an eagerly-anticipated clash that could decide the title race.
With five league games left this season, second-placed Bayern are three points behind leaders Dortmund and the winner at Borussia's sold-out Signal Iduna Park stadium will be in pole position to claim the league title.
"We can't afford to lose," said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "It will probably be decisive in the title race. It would still be all to play for should we draw, and if we win, we'd take pole position from Dortmund."
'Clash of the Titans', 'Game of Games' and 'Festival of Football' are just some of the catchphrases used to describe the showdown in Germany. Victory for Dortmund will leave them six points clear of the Bavarians, but a win for Bayern will put them top of the league for the first time since the start of February when Dortmund replaced them.
Bayern's German star Bastian Schweinsteiger, who played in Saturday's 2-1 win over Augsburg, is again set to start having proved his fitness after damaging ankle ligaments in February. And, Dortmund's teenage star Mario Gotze could well play a role, but it remains to be seen how much coach Jurgen Klopp is prepared to use the young star, who has struggled with a groin problem for the last ten weeks.
When the teams last met in November in Munich, Goetze's second-half winner gave his side a 1-0 victory, while Dortmund won both league matches against Bayern home and away last season. The last time Bayern beat Dortmund was back in February 2010 when the hosts claimed a 3-1 win at Munich's Allianz Arena, but their midfielder Toni Kroos said the present is all that matters.
"All that counts is that we're in superb shape and we've won a lot of matches in a row," insisted the 22-year-old. "We travel to Dortmund in good form. Obviously, we're wary and we know how good they are, but we're still just a little bit better in terms of footballing quality.
"It'll be very tense and we know we absolutely can't afford to lose. You sense that everyone in the team knows the importance of this match."
Dortmund are in fine form with ten wins and two draws since Christmas and the title is theirs to lose. "On Wednesday, it's going to be a clash of footballing cultures," said Klopp. "Bayern's 'Mia san Mia' meets our 'We are football' - it's going to be exciting. We are going to put on a show for the 80,000."
With a UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg at home against Real Madrid to come next Tuesday and nine straight victories behind them, the men from Munich are brimming with confidence. "We have a great deal of optimism, but also the necessary respect," said the Bavarian club's director of sport Christian Nerlinger.
Neither coach is prepared to admit the title race will be decided by Wednesday's result. "We'll only know who to call champions after the last day. Even after Wednesday, a whole lot can still happen," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.
Dortmund are chasing a second consecutive league title, while the teams will meet again in the DFB-Pokal final at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on 12 May.
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