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Third spot within champions' grasp

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Third spot within champions' grasp

Postby FCBayernNews » Fri Apr 20, 2007 5:00 pm


South German supremacy is always at stake when Bayern meet VfB Stuttgart, but Saturday's 80th Bundesliga meeting between the sides bristles with a special edge courtesy of the situation in the league standings. The champions trail third-placed VfB by two points going into the clash at the Gottlieb Daimler stadium in the Swabian metropolis (<b>Live in English from 3:15 pm on Web Radio</b>).

"It's our last chance to take points off a direct rival and overtake them," Philipp Lahm emphasised. "It's a massive opportunity to claim the place we've been chasing for a few weeks now. This is the moment to land the decisive blow," the left-back continued. "There are only four games to go after this. It's our first major final."

<b>Hitzfeld predicts titanic struggle</b>

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld could not have been more in agreement. "We're fully aware of the importance of the situation, whereby we only have finals in front of us," the General stated, pointing out the benefit of the club's experience in tense title run-ins. "The last few matches are all about holding your nerve. We've been through pretty much everything in the past. It's one of our strengths, and I hope we can play to that strength again this season."

Bayern will need all their experience and resolve on Saturday, as Stuttgart are undefeated in their last 12 matches on home soil, currently the best record in the Bundesliga. It comes as little surprise to find Hitzfeld expecting "a tough match. Stuttgart are on a roll. They've been superb so far this season and they're full of confidence." That can only have been bolstered by the Swabians DFB German Cup semi-final victory over Wolfsburg on Wednesday. "It sets them up nicely, it will give them renewed energy."

<b>Patience as a virtue</b>

Hitzfeld called on his men to be "clever and intelligent" against a side described by Lahm as "good in every position." The head coach urged his team up to show patience. "We won't just charge forward, we don't want to get caught on the break," the 58-year-old explained. "Stuttgart are a very, very good counter-attacking team. We have to find the right blend of tactics."

"We're not going to give them an inch, because we don't want them to get started," Hitzfeld advised. There could yet be a role for Martin Demichelis, who returns to contention after a calf injury, while Claudio Pizarro is also available following a cold. Willy Sagnol, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Andreas Ottl and Mehmet Scholl are all sidelined with injury.

<b>Confident coach</b>

Despite th-name absentee list, "we're strong enough to win with the team we have," Hitzfeld insisted. The coach felt his men could have a physical edge over the home team, as the midweek Cup battle would have taken its toll. "I'm looking forward to a very special match," Hitzfeld concluded. "We'll do everything in our power to come away with all three points. I believe we'll be successful."

<b>Probable line-ups:</b>

<b>VfB Stuttgart:</b> Hildebrand - Osorio, Meira, Delpierre, Magnin - Hilbert, Pardo, da Silva, Tasci - Cacau, Streller

<b>Bayern Munich:</b> Kahn - Lell, Lucio, Van Buyten, Lahm - Salihamidzic, Hargreaves, Van Bommel, Santa Cruz - Makaay, Podolski
<b>Also in matchday squad:</b> Rensing, Demichelis, Karimi, Ismael, Görlitz, Pizarro

<b>Referee:</b> Dr Markus Merk (Kaiserslautern)

<b>Bayern's record in the fixture:</b> P39 W21 D8 L10 F67 A47
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