Munich host Stuttgart in Bundesliga showdown

9th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

9 December 2004, HAMBURG - Bayern Munich coach Felix Magath runs into his former team as the frontrunners host VfB Stuttgart in a showdown on Saturday for the unofficial Bundesliga winter title. But in-form Schalke 04 are also out to lead the league into the winter break which runs until late January. Munich and Schalke, who are heavy favourites against bottom club Freiburg, are locked on 33 points, with Munich on a superior goal-difference. Stuttgart are third with 30 points. In 28 of the 41 Bundesliga se

9 December 2004

HAMBURG - Bayern Munich coach Felix Magath runs into his former team as the frontrunners host VfB Stuttgart in a showdown on Saturday for the unofficial Bundesliga winter title.

But in-form Schalke 04 are also out to lead the league into the winter break which runs until late January.

Munich and Schalke, who are heavy favourites against bottom club Freiburg, are locked on 33 points, with Munich on a superior goal-difference. Stuttgart are third with 30 points.
In 28 of the 41 Bundesliga seasons the leader at the halfway mark went on to win the title.

"The (winter) title itself means nothing to me, but it is important for psychological reasons," said Magath.

Munich goalkeeper and captain Oliver Kahn struck a similar note.

"It is definitely an advantage to hibernate in first place," said Kahn.

Magath had a mediocre start in Munich after replacing Ottmar Hitzfeld, but Michael Ballack, Roy Makaay and company have hit form by now and took the league lead two weeks ago.

Munich defeated Stuttgart 3-0 in a cup match last month, but both sides expect a tougher encounter this time around in the Olympic stadium.

"It won't be as easy this time. Stuttgart were in a slump at the time, but have since recovered," said Kahn.

Stuttgart playmaker Alexander Hleb agreed: "We are not afraid. We know that it (the cup game) was our worst showing this season. Now we have the chance to make up for it."

Stuttgart's chances of hibernating atop the standings are low because they will have to beat Munich and also depend on Freiburg winning at Schalke.

The latter appears almost impossible as Schalke have won nine of their last 10 games and Freiburg are in shambles in last place following a 6-0 home defeat against champions Werder Bremen.

Schalke are not paying too much attention to the standings right now, given their traumatic experience in 2000/2001.

"We were winter champions in 2000 and it didn't help us. Our captain Frank Rost is correct when he says that this title means nothing," said Schalke club manager Rudi Assauer.

Schalke led at the halfway mark, but lost the title to Munich on the very last play of the season when Patrick Andersson converted an injury-time free kick in Hamburg.

The head-to-head race between Munich and Schalke brings back memories of that memorable season, but neither side expects the same to happen again.

"We won't see such a finale again. I don't expect an early decision in the title race. It would be nice if we would be among the top three in the closing stages," said Assauer.

The other weekend games are Mainz 05 vs. Nuremberg, VfL Bochum vs. SV Hamburg, Hanover 96 vs. Hertha Berlin, Hansa Rostock vs. Borussia Dortmund, Bremen vs. Kaiserslautern (Saturday), VfL Wolfsburg vs. Arminia Bielefeld and Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Sunday).

 DPA

Subject: German news

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