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Football: Barcelona loom, but Bayern focus on Hanover

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri insists Bayern Munich will not be distracted during Saturday's trip to Hanover 96, even as Barcelona loom in a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final.

The new Bundesliga champions host Barca at Munich's Allianz Arena on Tuesday when the top teams in Germany and Spain go head-to-head, but Shaqiri claims the Bavarians have their minds on more mundane domestic matters.

"Everyone's talking about Barca, but we're genuinely focused," insisted Switzerland's Shaqiri, who was man-of-the-match in an outstanding display in Bayern's 6-1 German Cup semi-final hammering of VfL Wolfsburg on Tuesday.

"It's been the key to our success this season.

"We're not looking to our left and right, we're staying on course and focusing exclusively on our matches.

"I think it's very difficult to trip up Bayern at the moment."

Having been crowned German champions for the 23rd time a fortnight ago, Bayern are unbeaten in their last 16 Bundesliga away games.

And they are homing in on a number of records this weekend.

With five games left, they are just three short of the Bundesliga record of 81 points, which Borussia Dortmund set last season.

Victory at Hanover would give Bayern a Bundesliga-record 26th win this season, which would also be a record ninth consecutive away win, while another clean sheet would be a record 20th for the league.

Hanover have won their last two matches at home to Bayern, but the Bavarians won the return fixture 5-0 in Munich last November.

Mario Gomez, who scored a hat-trick in six minutes against Wolfsburg in midweek, is likely to start at Hanover to gain much-needed match time as first-choice Mario Mandzukic is suspended for Tuesday's Champions League semi-final.

Left-back David Alaba is also available after missing the win over the Wolves with an upset stomach.

With an eight-point lead over third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund are set to finish as Bundesliga runners up and they host Mainz on Saturday before facing Real Madrid at home in Wednesday's other Champions League semi-final.

Although Mainz have yet to win a Bundesliga game at Dortmund in six attempts, coach Jurgen Klopp is reluctant to rest players.

"It'll be an intense game, there are no thoughts of resting anyone, I will put together a team who I think can beat Mainz," said the Dortmund coach.

Klopp's side are in good form having won their last four Bundesliga matches in a row, scoring 17 goals in the process, but will be without captain Sebastian Kehl, who has a foot injury.

Germany star Marco Reus has been included in the squad despite picking up an injury in last weekend's 6-1 routing of bottom side Fuerth.

Leverkusen will be bidding to avoid any slip-ups at home to second-from-bottom Hoffenheim with German media reporting their Germany winger Andre Schuerrle is on the brink of signing a five-year deal with Chelsea.

With eight wins and a draw, Leverkusen have never lost against Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, but have won only one of their last five matches.

Hoffenheim have the worst away record in Germany's top flight with only five points from their last eleven games on the road, but new coach Markus Gisdol has picked up four points from his first two matches in charge as he bids to keep them up.

Schalke, fourth in the table, are at sixth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt with both sides eager to secure a Champions League spot for next season.

Fixtures:

Friday

Borussia M'gladbach v Augsburg

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund v Mainz 05, Bayer Leverkusen v Hoffenheim, Hanover 96 v Bayern Munich, Hamburg v Fortuna Duesseldorf, Eintracht Frankfurt v Schalke 04, Werder Bremen v VfL Wolfsburg

Sunday

VfB Stuttgart v Freiburg, Nuremberg v Greuther Fuerth

ryj/bc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130418/football-barcelona-loom-bayern-focus-hanover