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Canadians Figure in THE German Match

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Go Stalteri, crush the Whore !

Canadians figure as Bayern plays Bremen in THE match of German season

posted May 6 @ 15:22, EST

MUNICH (CP) - A pair of Canadians will face off Saturday as Werder Bremen looks to end Bayern Munich's championship reign and capture its first Bundesliga title since 1993.

Toronto's Paul Stalteri has been a fixture at fullback all season for Bremen while Calgary-raised Owen Hargreaves, who chose England over Canada for his international career, is an important midfield presence for Bayern.

With three rounds remaining in the season, Bremen holds a six-point lead over Bayern and has a significantly better goal difference (plus-12) as it chases its fourth Bundesliga title.

But a Bayern win would put the reigning champion back into the picture and its players were stepping up the pressure on the visitors ahead of the game.

"The pressure is greater on the leader then on the pursuer. The leader has more to lose," said Bayern midfield star Michael Ballack.

"Bremen has wasted several opportunities in the past few weeks to seal the championship. They didn't do it, they showed nerves," said Bayern captain Oliver Kahn. "Maybe our players have stronger nerves than the players from Bremen, who know this could be their one-time chance to win the German championship."

Bremen players were not showing much of their supposed stage fright.

"We know what's at stake but we are not letting that worry us," said defender Mladen Krstajic.

Defender Valerien Ismael said Bremen wasn't nervous at all.

"On the contrary, they are under more pressure than we are. It's a not a final for us. We can live with a draw. Even if we lose, we are still ahead. We can play freely and enjoy the game," said the Frenchman, who has broken through as one of Bremen's key players.

Bremen (71 points) is riding a 22-match unbeaten streak and bounced back from two straight 0-0 draws to thrash Hamburger SV 6-0 last weekend. The lopsided win brought accusations from Bayern that Hamburg wasn't playing fairly when it left several starters on the bench.

Bayern (65) also needs to stay in front of Stuttgart (61), which is still chasing second place and a direct berth in next season's Champions League and which hosts Bayern one week later.

Stalteri has started 30 of 31 games for Bremen this season. Hargreaves has appeared in 23 of Bayern's 31 league games with another six appearances in the Champions League.

Saturday's clash at Munich's Olympic stadium brings together two teams that boast the most lethal attacks in the league.

Bremen (21-2-8) has scored 73 goals, to 66 for Bayern (19-4-8). Bremen's striker Ailton, in his last season with the club before moving to Schalke, leads the Bundesliga with 26 goals. Roy Makaay, in his first season with Bayern, has 22.

Whether the two leading strikers will face off is still uncertain, however. Makaay has missed practice this week with a heavy cold and could sit out the game. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld doesn't expect a final decision on whether Makaay can play until shortly before the match. Ballack is nursing knee and shin injuries.

Makaay has played down his role in the Bayern team. "It doesn't matter who scores goals for Bayern," Makaay said. "What really matters is that we win the championship."

Ailton has made no secret that he wants to pay farewell to Bremen by winning the Bundesliga crown and leading the league in scoring.

"If I am scoring goals, it's good for Bremen. If I score a lot, Bremen will be champion," the speedy Brazilian said.

While Bayern could end the season without any silverware, having been knocked out from the Champions League and from the German Cup, Bremen is still chasing the double. It's also in the German Cup final and heavily favoured to beat second-division Alemannia Aachen in the May 29 final.

That game means Stalteri will have to miss Canada's friendly against Wales in Wrexham the next day.

Although Bayern has failed to play up to expectations, the club has said it will keep coach Hitzfeld until the end of his contract next season.

Bayern said it had 150,000 requests for tickets, but the Olympic stadium will be full with 63,000.

Stuttgart travels to Hamburg and has to win to keep up with Bayern.

"Second place is still our target, even though our chances have declined," coach Felix Magath said.

In other matches Saturday, it's Kaiserslautern versus Wolfsburg, Hannover 96 versus Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen versus Cologne, Hertha Berlin versus Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Moenchengladbach versus Schalke.

On Sunday, Bochum hosts Freiburg and Hansa Rostock plays 1860 Munich.

Moenchengladbach, Hannover, Kaiserslautern, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt are all battling against relegation and none can afford to lose. Cologne is already doomed.

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