Munich - League leaders FC Bayern Munich are looking to equal a Bundesliga record of eight consecutive away victories in Saturday's 185th Bavarian derby against state-rivals 1. FC Nuremberg.
Hecking: "We're not dispairing"
The record titleholders won for the first time in Franconia since 2005 in last season's corresponding fixture, but didn't have things their own way as they were forced to rely on a solitary Arjen Robben strike to move themselves within touching distance of Borussia Dortmund at the time.
This time round it's Bayern who are leading the pack after bettering the best ever start to a Bundesliga campaign, one that they themselves recorded in 1980/81. "There is no difference in class, both teams are playing in the same league," said FCN head coach Dieter Hecking. "Bayern have made a great impression. They're a strong unit. It's obviously a collection of quality individuals, who have now also discovered that football is a team sport."
Four points from a possible 24 in recent weeks doesn't bode well for the hosts, who are preparing to face the side against whom their Bundesliga record is worst. "We have to close down the space, look for chances going forward and make the most of them," stated Hecking. "We don't need anything to encourage us. Yes, we're going through a difficult phase, but we're not despairing." The return of No1 goalkeeper Rafael Schäfer will come as a timely boost, while, with Hanno Balitsch sidelined, Markus Feulner could be handed a rare start in the derby which Hecking believes "will be very emotional".
Like a broken record
Indeed the importance of this rivalry needs no introduction to either set of fans and, after announcing a record turnover in 2012 at Thursday's Annual General Meeting, Bayern's supporters will be hoping their side can be "masters of our own destiny" as club executive Karl Hopfner so aptly put it. However, one man unable to influence Bayern's fortunes this weekend will be Arjen Robben, who head coach Jupp Heynckes ruled out for "tomorrow and against Valencia" after in the Netherlands' midweek encounter with Germany.
Holger Badstuber, Dante, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger are all available for selection again, while Mario Gomez could make his first competitive appearance of the season having netted four times in die Münchner's friendly against sixth-tier side Markt Schwaben on Tuesday night.
Pekhart's barren spell
"My job is to exercise caution about bringing him back," explained coach Heynckes, who could see his side equal their own Bundesliga record, shared with Borussia Dortmund, if they're able to collect their eighth consecutive away win dating back to last season. FCB are yet to concede on foreign soil in the current campaign and, considering der Club's first-choice striker Tomas Pekhart hasn't scored in 803 minutes, will be hoping to follow suit on Saturday.
Nuremberg: Schäfer - Chandler, Nilsson, Klose, Pinola - Feulner, Simons - Kiyotake, Gebhart, Frantz - Pekhart
Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Badstuber, Dante, Alaba - Tymoshchuk, Schweinsteiger - T. Müller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic