30 January 2004
HAMBURG – Leaders Werder Bremen and second-placed Bayern Munich meet bottom clubs Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively when the Bundesliga resumes on the weekend from a six- week winter break.
Bremen will be out for a better second half of the season than in the two previous seasons as they seek their fourth Bundesliga crown.
Title holders Munich, by contrast, played a mediocre first half of the campaign, but will rely on their traditionally strong form when it really matters in an effort to prevail once again.
The action already kicks off on Friday night when Borussia Dortmund meet arch-rivals Schalke in a western German duel of two teams who have disappointed so far, placed only sixth and eighth, respectively.
Dortmund have not beaten Schalke at home since 1998, but need every point to make up a huge deficit to the top as they need a place in the Champions League if they want to keep all their expensive players.
The much speculated transfer of Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky to Chelsea never materialised and Rosicky now hopes for good results in the remaining 17 games.
“If we beat Schalke we will win back respect. Everyone will say: Dortmund are back. I have not written off the Champions League. We want to make it and we can make it,” insisted Rosicky.
Dortmund have amassed 25 points so far, leaving Matthias Sammer’s side with a 14-point deficit to impressive Bremen, who reign atop with 39 points.
Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and long-time leaders VfB Stuttgart follow on 35 apiece, but experts and fans believe that only Munich pose a serious threat for Bremen.
“We have the best team,” insisted Munich’s midfielder Owen Hargreaves.
The England international Hargreaves added that Munich were not concerned about Bremen’s four-point lead: “They still have to play in Munich and we will beat them in that game.”
Munich, who are still without Sebastian Deisler although his hospital treatment for depression has ended, should have few problems taking three points away from Frankfurt.
Eintracht are bottom of the table and rated the likeliest team to be relegated, but winter signings Ingo Hertzsch and Ioannis Amanatidis are looking to help them stay in the top flight.
Hertha Berlin are thinking in a similar way as they aim to salvage a disastrous season with new coach Hans Meyer.
“We have a good team with lots of quality. We must play football again and have confidence on the pitch,” said Belgian star Bart Goor.
However, Hertha may find themselves on the losing end again on Saturday as the trip to Bremen is the toughest task they could get.
Boasting the likes of Bundesliga top scorer Ailton and French playmaker Johan Micoud, the hosts are determined to continue their impressive form and not slump a third time.
“We only have to continue playing like we did until now. We have a great opportunity lying ahead of us,” said defender Fabian Ernst.
The other weekend games are VfL Bochum vs. VfL Wolfsburg, 1860 Munich vs. Kaiserslautern, Cologne vs. Borussia Moenchengladbach, VfB Stuttgart vs. Hansa Rostock (all Saturday), SC Freiburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen and Hanover 96 vs. SV Hamburg (Sunday).
Subject: German news