Bayern look to reel in "Neverkusen"

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Fri 25th Jan, 2013

Having breathed a collective sigh of relief after sealing a Champions League qualification spot with last weekend's 8-1 demolition job at relegated St.Pauli, Bayern Munich will look to end the season on a positive note against VfB Stuttgart.

A win in the 'Southern Derby' over Stuttgart will still give them a slim chance of snatching second spot. Bayer Leverkusen travel to SC Freiburg needing only a draw for an automatic Champions League berth. Bayern will be hoping for a slip-up from Jupp Heynckes' side as well as fulfilling their part of the bargain in seeing off a much-improved Stuttgart side, who are looking for their fifth consecutive win.  Heynckes, of course takes over the reins at the 'Reds' once again in the summer.

Leverkusen, cruelly christened "Neverkusen" for their inability to turn their slick passing football into titles and silverware, currently lie second and lead FCB by 3 points but have a drastically inferior goal difference.

Bayern’s players are very keen to test lingering Leverkusen wounds remaining from the catastrophe in 2000 when a hugely talented Leverkusen side including Jens Nowotny, Michael Ballack, Emerson, Bernd Schneider, Zé Roberto, Ulf Kirsten und Oliver Neuville blew the title on the final day with a 2-0 defeat to unheralded Unterhaching.

"The past has shown us which clubs that can and cannot cope with pressure," taunted Thomas Müller. "We are hoping that Leverkusen once again lives up to its reputation."

It is a measure of how disappointing Bayern’s campaign has been that the slight hope of securing a runner-up spot has been greeted with such glee in recent weeks. In the aftermath of sickening defeats to Inter Milan (Champions League) and Schalke 04 (German Cup) and the turmoil surrounding the sacking of Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, the Bayern hierarchy are seemingly only too glad to pick up on any scraps of positivity, despite this season’s empty trophy cabinet.

With the prestigious 2012 Champions League final being staged in Munich, the Bavarians would have been foolish to miss out on qualification to their very own party at the Allianz Arena. Following their worst start to a Bundesliga campaign since 1966, Bayern were always playing catch-up on Borussia Dortmund, who rode the crest of a wave all the way to a deserved title success.

Meanwhile, Bayern are being strongly linked with a move for Schalke and Germany keeper Manuel Neuer in the summer. €20 million should secure Neuer’s signature, who has insisted he wants to remain in the Bundesliga with Munich his preferred destination - his girlfriend is from the Bavarian capital.

Bayern’s goal machine Mario Gomez lines up against his former club in top form after his hat-trick in Hamburg last week. Gomez, a €35 million signing in 2009, can boast a prolific 27 goals in just 31 league games.  No cups or trophies for his side but a small personal consolation for Gomez, who will top the Bundesliga scoring charts, earning praise from Germany coach Joachim Löw.

"27 goals clearly speak for Mario’s goal-scoring prowess but also his assertiveness and self-confidence. He never let his head go down despite not always being first choice at Bayern."

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