Bremen, Bayern face tough tests
23 April 2004
HAMBURG – Leaders Werder Bremen travel to fifth-placed Bochum while defending champions Bayern Munich face city rivals 1860 Munich as the key German Bundesliga action falls this weekend on Sunday.
With Bremen eight points clear and just five matches remaining, victory over Bochum will put them a step nearer their first Bundesliga title since 1993.
But coach Thomas Schaaf can hardly expect any help from struggling 1860 Munich against Bayern in the Olympic Stadium.
1860 are in disarray following the sacking last Saturday of Falko Goetz and the appointment of Dutchman Gerald Vanenburg. Three successive defeats have put the “lions” perilously close to the relegation zone.
Bayern will be without suspended midfielder Michael Ballack, but Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side will be confident of gaining all three points having won the last seven matches against their local rivals.
Meanwhile Werder have started to falter, with only six points from their last four matches including a disappointing goalless draw at home to Hanover last Sunday.
Schaaf appears unworried by the sudden lack of spark from some of his key players, or suggestions by Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn that Werder may even be “scared” of winning the title.
“We are not tensing up. That was clear against Hanover as we got better and better as the game went on,” the coach said.
And sport director Klaus Aloffs dismissed any talk of a crisis, saying the team had now gone 20 matches without defeat.
Werder come up against a Bochum side buoyed by two successive victories and beaten only once at home this season. In addition, Bochum striker Vahid Hashemian will be looking to do Bayern – his new employers from next season – a favour.
“If we beat Bremen and Bayern win their derby game the championship will be really interesting,” Hashemian told Kicker magazine. “But in the first instance this is about Bochum. We want to defend our fifth spot (for a UEFA Cup place).
“We have already beaten Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Schalke. Now we want to beat Bremen. Whether I score or another player scores is totally unimportant.”
Among the pick of Saturday’s games, fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen entertain sixth-placed Borussia Dortmund in a key battle for a UEFA Cup spot for next season.
Third-placed VfB Stuttgart, just two points behind Bayern Munich, visit Hanover who need points to keep them out of relegation danger.
Schalke 04 will be looking for a victory at improved Hansa Rostock to maintain any chance of qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
In the relegation fight, Hertha Berlin meet Kaiserslautern, Borussia Moenchengladbach entertain Wolfsburg, and bottom club Cologne travel to midtable Hamburg.
Subject: German news