Bayern v Dortmund 'like' big UCL tie
Bayern Munich's Bundesliga game against champions Borussia Dortmund on Saturday feels like "a major Champions League match," according to Munich captain Philipp Lahm.
Munich have a runaway league lead and are 11 points ahead of third-placed Dortmund, but Lahm told dpa that takes nothing away from the duel. Victory at home would be sweet for Munich, given that Dortmund have beaten them in the last five competitive games.
Even worse, Lahm said, was the fact that Dortmund took the last two Bundesliga titles while Munich ended both seasons without a trophy, coming second in the league, German cup and Champions League in 2012.
"Defeats? The worst thing that remains in the mind is that we didn't become German champions two years in a row. That is unusual in Munich. Those are the defeats we suffered," Lahm said.
Twelve months ago Dortmund overcame an eight-point deficit on Munich and eventually lifted the trophy eight points ahead of them, followed by a 5-2 triumph in the 2012 cup final.
"We lost in Dortmund late last season when we still had the chance to win the title. We had scoring chances in the second half and even wasted a penalty. We could have won," Lahm said.
"Then came the cup final which was bitter for us, although maybe we were already thinking of the Champions League final the following week."
Bayern beat Dortmund 2-1 in the German super cup final played in the pre-season, but Saturday will be the real test for them, and the more points Munich get ahead of their rivals, the better, according to Lahm.
"The team is fully motivated, it is a game like a major Champions League match. Two very good teams meet, you really look forward to it," Lahm said.
Lahm said that Munich have become stronger this season and unlike last year are winning when it matters.
Munich clinched the unofficial Bundesliga winter title for the leader half-way through the season in record time three games ahead of the mark by winning 2-0 in Freiburg Wednesday. They have won 12 of the 14 league games, drawn one and only lost against Leverkusen.
Dortmund were held 1-1 by promoted Dusseldorf on Tuesday and are not quite as sharp as in the past season where they went unbeaten in last 28 of the 34 games.
"What makes us strong is how we work in defense. That has become much better than in the past two years. We have let in only five goals in 14 games. That is our strength.
"We know that we can be creative up front and always score a goal. But the important thing is that we all work together on the defensive side.
Munich coach Jupp Heynckes took no chances and left midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger out against Freiburg to spare him a possible yellow-card suspension in the big game. Arjen Robben and Luiz Gustavo remain injured but Mario Gomez is back up front from a long layoff.
His Dortmund counterpart Juergen Klopp did also not field players like Mario Goetze and Mats Hummels against Dusseldorf to have them fit on Saturday in a full squad to chose from.
Lahm said he didn't know whether Dortmund have already written off the title, but doesn't expect them to just deliver the points in Munich.
Munich are ready and Lahm said there had been no winter title celebrations in mid-week.
"Nothing. We got home late after the game. We can only celebrate when we stand on the town hall balcony at the end of the season (with the trophy)," he said.
Munich have seen many title rivals come and go over the years, but he now expects Dortmund to stay at the top which could prove Spanish teammate Javi Martinez right, who has compared the game to the Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid in his home country.
"Dortmund have a very good team and will play it the top over the next years. They have also survived the Champions League group stage for the first time in a long time. In a few years you may really be able to compare the two duels," Lahm said.