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Football | Germany

Bayern on brink of latest title



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

Borussia Dortmund have won the last two titles, but they currently sit 20 points adrift of Bayern in second place with eight games remaining.

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

However, it is inevitable that 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 that 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 savour 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 have long dominated the country's footballing scene, HSV are struggling to keep up.

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

Just a point adrift of the top four, they are one of several clubs still in 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 have never really threatened to make it three consecutive titles, with top spot having eluded them 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 coming up on Wednesday.

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

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

"I will happily congratulate them, but not on Saturday because we want to beat Stuttgart first," he said.

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