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FCB keen to maintain or extend lead at the top

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FCB keen to maintain or extend lead at the top

Postby FCBayernNews » Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:30 pm

Friday is a big day for Bayern, with the draw for the Champions League Round of 16, the last Bundesliga fixture of the year, and a chance to settle the unofficial autumn championship once and for all. The UEFA event in Nyon takes place at midday, before the league leaders host FC Köln in the evening (Live in English from 8.15 pm CET on Web Radio) in the final home match of 2011.

"It's a couple of years since we spent the mid-season break top of the league, so it's a good feeling. But everyone knows when the real trophies are handed out," noted captain Philipp Lahm, urging his men to bring home the bacon against the side lying 10th in the table: "If we win, we'll go into the winter break with at least a three-point advantage, and we can call it a successful first half of the season. Everyone will be calm, and we'll enjoy a happy Christmas."

However, Lahm is well aware that the meeting with the men from Cologne has proved problematic in recent years. FCB have failed to beat Köln in their last five home matches, and the most recent win was a 3-0 success in March 2002. "We've not looked good against Köln in the past. We've very rarely taken all three points, so that has to change on Friday," the skipper declared. In a similar vein, Manuel Neuer called for "a good finish and successful end to the first half of the campaign."

"We're totally focused on the last match against Köln," insisted boss Jupp Heynckes. He and the squad will of course watch the Champions League draw, but the focus is on the evening league fixture. "It's a task we have to bring to a positive conclusion at the end of the year. Naturally, we'll go all out to win," the 66-year-old stated ahead of Thursday's final pre-match training session.

Lahm: Köln will set out their stall

Going into the final round of fixtures before the holiday season, FCB lead second-placed Borussia Dortmund, who travel to bottom club Freiburg on Saturday, by three points and ten goals, so the unofficial autumn championship is all but in the bag. "We're totally motivated and want to extend our lead before the weekend, so the other teams see we're consistent," said Neuer, "it's important we get into the game early, let the ball do the work, spread it wide and find our rhythm."

Lahm is expecting the Rhineland side to park the proverbial bus in defence, tactics which earned them goalless draws in the last two corresponding fixtures. "They'll pull everyone back behind the ball, close down the space and make life difficult for us," the full-back advised, "we need good movement, creativity, and plenty of chances." Friday's visitors pose a threat on the break too: "We mustn't allow them space of their own. They have quick, strong counter-attacking players. It's certainly a challenge."

Visitors out to cause trouble

Heynckes is set to field a full strength side, as the only confirmed absentees are Bastian Schweinsteiger and Breno. Franck Ribéry has recovered from a minor sprain at the start of the week and came through the final training session unscathed. The winger should be fit to start on Friday.

The Cologne outfit, unbeaten in their last three matches, come complete with former Bayern stars Michael Rensing in goal and Lukas Podolski, currently in the form of his life and already with a personal best 14 league goals to his name. "I'm looking forward to the game in Munich. It'll be good to see my Germany team-mates and the people I knew from my time there," declared Poldi, "just like we've done before, we'll see if we can annoy Bayern a bit."
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