Säbener Strasse, Munich - The holiday season approaches and for FC Bayern München, the only presents that are acceptable have to do with their table position in the Bundesliga and their next opponent in the Champions League. The real presents do not come until May.
When Bayern host 1. FC Cologne at the Allianz Arena on Friday, it may be cold and wet, but there will be warm feelings amongst the players and management knowing that they will enter the second half of the season as "Herbstmeister" - Fall Champions, the unofficial title for the team at the top of the Bundesliga table going into the winter break.
Teams do not get an engraved trophy, not even a certificate. It's more of a pyschological feeling knowing that one is halfway to the league title. Last year's league winner, Borussia Dortmund were Herbstmeister. However two years before that, eventual winners Bayern and VfL Wolfsburg were not. Over the past 10 years, six teams lead both at the midway point and at the end.
However the honorary title means more to Munich. In the German record champions' last 11 league title seasons, they were Herbstmeister NINE times.
"There are many years that we are on top at the winter break," recalls captain Philipp Lahm. "It's a good feeling, but everyone knows, when the title is won."
"We are completely focused on this last match against Cologne," added head coach Jupp Heynckes. "We want to stay positive as the calendar turns, so of course we want to win the match."
More positive news for Bayern, as they hope to not only win the German league and cup titles, but also play in the UEFA Champions League final in their own stadium on May 19th.
The draw for the knockout stage was held today and the team avoided powerhouses from Italy and France, and drew unknown FC Basel. The Swiss champions made it to the next round by beating world reknowned Manchester United. They won't be pushovers.
"They are a dangerous team," warned Lahm. "But we will go into this draw as favorites."
Bayern President and German soccer legend Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was also positive, but offers how the team can beat this year's giant killers. "If we concentrate on our play and give a solid effort, then we have a good chance to make it to the quarterfinals. Whoever eliminates ManU, should deserve respect from us."
The Bavarians travel to Basel on February 22nd for the first match, the return match will be at the Allianz Arena on March 13th.
Before that, Bayern will kickoff against the "Geissbock" (Billy Goat) of Cologne tonight at 20:30 CET.