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Nov, 29, 2012

Bayern clinch 'winter championship'

Bayern Munich have become the first Bundesliga team in history to clinch the Herbstmeisterschaft after only 14 games, as they went ten points clear at the top of the table after beating 10-man Freiburg 2-0.

• Blog: Autumn champions

The Herbstmeisterschaft (winter championship) is the unofficial title handed to the league leaders after the first half of the season. Out of the 49 winter champions so far, 32 went on to win the league title. Bayern's achievement marks the earliest Herbstmeister in Bundesliga history.

Bayern beat SC Freiburg 2-0 on Wednesday, and, after chasing pack Dortmund, Frankfurt and Schalke slipped on Tuesday, they opened a ten-point gap over Bayern Leverkusen.

Ahead of the German 'clasico' on Saturday, however, Bayern's players were cautious, despite winning the unofficial title. "This means nothing," warned midfielder Toni Kroos. "Just remember last year!"

In the 2011-12 season Bayern had also topped the table, three points ahead of chasers Dortmund and Schalke. During the second half of the season, though, Bayern lost 11 points on Borussia Dortmund and finished second.

"We had to listen to that drivel last year," Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. "There is always a second part of the season."

The club captain Philipp Lahm said: "We'll spend the winter break on top, and that's actually very, very important. But we still have a couple of games and targets before the break.

"We want to extend our advantage in the Bundesliga, finish top of our Champions League group, and make the next round of the cup. We'll stay focused and keep working.

Bayern's focus will now shift towards the Dortmund game this weekend. In the Bundesliga, Bayern have lost the last four games against Dortmund. "It is time to finally beat Dortmund again," said Neuer.

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