Chasers FC Bayern

At Borussia Dortmund, who are on their way to a successful title defence, the word “championship” is again a word they don’t like to hear. It’s because the reigning German champions are being chased by Bayern Munich, the record champions and indisputably – long term over the past decades – the dominant club in Germany. However, Bayern have outlawed certain words themselves. “Semifinals” or even “final” when used in connection with the Champions League are frowned upon. But things are looking rosy on the European stage since Wednesday, 28 March. A 2-0 (1-0) away win at Olympique Marseille means Munich are on course to reach their sixth semifinal in Europe’s premier competition where the opponents are likely to be Real Madrid at home on 17 April and away on 25 April. Beforehand though Marseille will have to be finally put to bed in the second leg on 3 April.

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Happy FC Bayern Munich fans at the Champions League match at Olympique Marseille. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


Confidence has grown again in Munich. The triple consisting of German league championship, German cup and the European Cup in the Champions League is still possible. But in the Bundesliga Dortmund are still five points to the good going into the 28th round of matches and have, prior to their home game against VfB Stuttgart (Friday, 30 March), set a new club record of 21 games without defeat. Football Germany is eagerly awaiting the top duel between the champions from Westphalia and the chasers from Bavaria which will be played in front of an 80,700 crowd in Dortmund on Wednesday, 11 April. And the two giants will meet again in Berlin in the final of the DFB Cup on 12 May.

Bayern therefore have eleven games ahead of them should they reach the semifinals. And the dreams are also centred on a twelfth match to will take place in their Allianz Arena home on 19 May: the final of the Champions League would be the ultimate destination for their yearnings, the season’s crowning glory. In the past four weeks of the 2011/12 season, the schedule wasn’t that full as there were only games on Saturdays. But from the end of March to 21 April, Munich faces what Germans call “English weeks” – namely two games within the space of seven days. A slightly strange term for football fans in Britain, but in the beginnings of professional football, two games a week was considered an English speciality on the continent.

Munich back in the style of a top team

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"It could turn into a great season,” said World Cup runner-up Arjen Robben after he added a second goal to Mario Gomez’s opener in Marseille. Confidence at Bayern is on the rise again. The crisis that culminated in the 1-0 loss in Basle and the 2-0 defeat in Leverkusen is over. Since then there have been three wins in the Bundesliga, a success in the cup in Mönchengladbach and two more in the Champions League. Coach Jupp Heynckes’ team is once again giving the impression they are a top European team. But celebrations are forbidden.

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FC Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller (left) seen battling with Mathieu Valbueno, the Olympique Marseille captain. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

"Champagne would flow in former times whenever we won 2-0 away in the European Cup,” said Munich’s chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in Marseille at the midnight buffet. Talking to the players, he made it clear that the consumption of alcohol was perhaps occasionally allowed in former times but it hardly imaginable for football professionals these days. “Unfortunately you can’t celebrate as you’ve got tough matches coming up every three days. There’s a lot of work still to do.” And General Manager Christian Nerlinger also warned: “We’re on the finishing straight in all competitions. We’ve got to stay fully concentrated,” he said. The coming weeks are "physically and mentally a gigantic challenge. But the team is highly motivated,” commented the manager.

First up on Saturday (31 March) is the difficult derby at 1. FC Nuremberg, then they face Marseille in Munich (3 April). The opponents in the Bundesliga games within the space of eight days before and after Easter are FC Augsburg (at home on 7 April),  Dortmund (away on 11 April) and Mainz 05 again at home on 14 April. It should be followed by the home game against Real Madrid (17 April) and the away matches at Werder Bremen (21 April) and Real Madrid (25 April). The final home game of the season will be against southern rivals VfB Stuttgart on 28 April. Bayern have to travel to 1 FC Cologne for their last league match on 5 May. The Olympic Stadium in Berlin will showpiece the cup final against Dortmund.

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Munich’s Franck Ribery walking out onto the pitch. The former Marseille striker had to endure being constantly whistled at by the Olympique fans (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


The biggest question of all in Munich, which will be answered by 25 April at the latest after the probable encounters with Madrid, is: “Are Bayern going to be involved in European club football’s biggest final to take place in Munich on 19 May. But that’s taking things far too far for Heynckes. “We’ve got no time to recuperate. We’re running from one competition to the other,” said the coach in Marseille and warned of the difficult job ahead of them. "We shouldn’t let ourselves be put under pressure. We’ve got immense task ahead of us. But we shouldn’t think about this or that final. They’re still a long way off.”