12 March 2004
HAMBURG – Bayern Munich host Hansa Rostock on Saturday as they look to regroup in the Bundesliga after their Champions League elimination and make up a seven-point deficit on leaders Werder Bremen.
But Bayern are unlikely to gain ground as Bremen are the overwhelming favourites in their match with bottom club Cologne.
Having been eliminated by Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday and in the German cup last month, Bayern are in danger of ending the season empty-handed.
Club officials have named second place and with it direct qualification for the Champions League the top priority one year after Bayern won a German double.
“We must make sure that we keep second place. Bremen have not done anything wrong so far,” said club president Bayern Munich.
But chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has not given up the Bundesliga title dream yet, mainly because Bremen face two away matches after Saturday’s game.
“We will have a clearer picture in three weeks whether we will be able to attack the top. We must be ready if Bremen stumble,” said Rummenigge.
Bayern in general and their playmaker Michael Ballack were shown their limitations by a mediocre Real Madrid team, but they should bag the three points against Rostock, who have lost the last three years in the Olympic stadium.
The same applies to Bremen, who have so far shown no weakness and last weekend responded well to Bayern’s pressure by winning 2-0 at 1860 Munich.
Playmaker Johan Micoud said the team has matured compared to last year.
“We can withstand the pressure. We are more mature. We are thinking only about the next game such as against Cologne. Last year we underestimated them, but not this time around,” Micoud told Kicker sports magazine.
Cologne, who last won in Bremen in 1995, are yet to win on the road this season and are in an almost hopeless situation eight points away from safety.
Apart from the title race, a lot of attention will also be on Hanover 96 and 1860 Munich.
Hanover look to end a winless run of five games when they host fellow-strugglers Kaiserslautern in their first game under coach Ewald Lienen, who was hired Tuesday in succession of sacked Ralf Rangnick.
“The team must show a vastly improved fighting spirit, ” said Lienen.
1860 Munich, meanwhile, are in shock about the detention of their president Karl-Heinz Wildmoser in connection with an alleged bribery case around the construction of Munich’s World Cup stadium.
Wildmoser’s days at the club may be over after 12 years even if he is declared innocent. But Coach Falko Goetz expressed his hope that the affair will motivate the players to do well at third placed VfB Stuttgart on Sunday.
“I need players who identify 100 percent with the club,” said Goetz, whose side is just three points above the drop zone.
The other weekend games are crisis-ridden Bayer Leverkusen vs. VfL Wolfsburg, SV Hamburg vs. Hertha Berlin, SC Freiburg vs. Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Schalke 04 (Saturday) and VfL Bochum vs. Borussia Moenchengladbach (Sunday).
Subject: German news