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Bayern brimming with confidence ahead of Barcelona clash

By Gary Morley, CNN
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Sat April 20, 2013
  • Bayern Munich's dominant form continues with Saturday's 6-1 victory away to Hanover
  • German champions set more milestones ahead of semifinal clash with Barcelona
  • Spanish leaders labor to 1-0 victory over Levante, again resting star player Lionel Messi
  • Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid also win ahead of their Champions League semi

(CNN) -- "Bring on Barca!" trumpeted Bayern Munich's website on Saturday.

Confidence is brimming in Bavaria ahead of this coming week's Champions League semifinals, in which the best two German clubs will take on the best two from Spain.

Not many teams fancy their chances against Barcelona, but Bayern's mood is buoyant after another day of milestones in the Bundesliga.

The 6-1 thrashing of Hannover extended the champions' record winning streak to 13 league matches, it was an unprecedented 26th victory from 30 matches, and equaled Borussia Dortmund's leading points tally of 81 with four games to play.

It also constituted a record ninth consecutive away win, and only a late header by Andre Hoffmann denied goalkeeper Manuel Neuer a record 20th clean sheet.

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"We wanted to prepare well for the match against Barcelona, and we succeeded. We've played well, and especially in the first half, it was a convincing performance," Neuer said.

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Strikers Mario Gomez and Claudio Pizarro netted twice each as coach Jupp Heynckes made eight changes from Tuesday's German Cup semifinal win, and even altered his usual formation to accommodate the two forwards.

"Once again, the players have proved we don't have a B-team, we only have an A-team," said Heynckes, who will step aside to allow former Barca coach Pep Guardiola to take charge at the end of this season.

"The players are just enjoying their football, and our attitude is superb. Every man was totally motivated, we put together some very fluid moves, we showed great discipline, and we created outstanding goals."

The win contrasted sharply with Barcelona's labored 1-0 victory over Levante, which left the Catalan side with a 13-point lead in La Liga ahead of Tuesday's trip to Munich.

With Lionel Messi among those players rested, as the four-time world player of the year protects his problem hamstring, his replacement Cesc Fabregas snatched victory in the 84th minute after David Villa missed a first-half penalty.

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Andres Iniesta made his 447th appearance for the Blaugrana, putting him fifth equal on the club's all-time list alongside Carles Rexach. They are behind only Xavi, Carles Puyol, Migueli and VĂ­ctor Valdes.

Eric Abidal made his first start following his liver transplant, and the French defender is now in contention to play against Bayern.

"We are very happy for Abidal," said assistant coach Jordi Roura.

"More than just the sporting aspect, it is something very nice for him, for the dressing room, for everyone to see him complete the game and look fine.

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"He is a new option and alternative looking towards Tuesday. In the next few training sessions we will decide who will be paired in central defense in Munich."

The other two teams left in Europe's top club competition also enjoyed victories on Saturday.

Dortmund won 2-0 against Mainz to stay second in the German league -- 20 points behind Bayern -- with goals from Marco Reus after 32 seconds and Robert Lewandowski late in the match ensuring qualification for next season's Champions League.

Lewandowski scored for the 12th successive match -- four short of Gerd Muller's record for Bayern in the 1970s -- and the Poland striker now has a league-leading 23 this season.

Jurgen Klopp's team will next host Real Madrid on Wednesday, when Jose Mourinho's team will seek to improve on a dismal record of just one victory in 24 visits to Germany in European competitions.

"We were focused on winning it, but Real was always in the back of our minds," Lewandowski said.

"I want to score at least one goal in each game because that makes me happy. It would be wonderful to chalk up a goal or two against Madrid, too!"

Madrid stayed second in La Liga with a 3-1 victory at home to Betis, as Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil scored twice and France forward Karim Benzema added the other goal.

However, midfielder Luka Modric and defender Marcelo are in doubt for the first leg of the semifinal after both were taken off with injuries.

"Marcelo has felt it quite a lot. Luka looks like fatigue, but he said he felt something and we'll need to see how it develops," said assistant coach Aitor Karanka, who faced the press in place of Mourinho -- whose future at Real was again questioned in Spanish reports before the match.

Mourinho gave a debut to 21-year-old Brazil international midfielder Casemiro, who is captain of Real's reserve side.

"It is a dream and I will continue to work hard to have more opportunities," said Casemiro, who is on loan from Brazilian club Sao Paulo.

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