Focus on Klinsmann as Bayern Munich start as favourites

August 14th, 2008 - 11:55 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bayern Munich

Hamburg, Aug 14 (IANS) Bayern Munich expect new coach Juergen Klinsmann to deliver a 22nd German League title when the Bundesliga season begins for the league and cup winners at home against SV Hamburg Friday. Bayern start the Bundesliga’s 46th season as clear favourites but the change of coach from the experienced Ottmar Hitzfeld to 44-year-old Klinsmann, making his debut as a club coach, could provide an opportunity for leading rivals.

Bayern won last year’s title, enjoying a 10-point gap over second-placed Werder Bremen, and Klinsmann can rely on basically the same set of players.

Veteran goalkeeper Oliver Kahn is no longer around after retirement, with the young Michael Rensing under the bar, but Bayern have not spent at all on the transfer market.

Midfielder Tim Borowski, arriving on a free transfer from Bremen, is the only newcomer of note, with the focus of investment instead on former international striker Klinsmann and his coaching staff.

Klinsmann, who took Germany to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup, wants a swifter, more attacking game from Bayern, but it may take time for his methods to bear fruit, opening up opportunities for the likes of Bremen and Schalke 04.

Bayern’s pre-season form has been patchy, with training disrupted by injuries and the later arrivals of their Euro 2008 internationals.

Striker Luca Toni, midfielder Franck Ribery, defenders Willy Sagnol, Martin Demichelis and midfielder Hamit Altintop are ruled out against Hamburg while Argentina midfielder Jose Ernesto Sosa and Brazilian defender Breno are at the Olympics.

Bayern struggled to overcome third division Rot-Weiss Erfurt in the German Cup on Sunday, but Klinsmann said he was confident of an improvement Friday.

“We have worked on the mistakes against Erfurt. We have done a lot in the tactical area and what’s only lacking now is the fine-tuning,” he said.

Hamburg, who finished fourth last term, also start with a new coach in 52-year-old Dutchman Martin Jol, who played nine games for Bayern in the 1978/1979 season.

Jol must compensate for the loss of Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart to Real Madrid, but the northerners have looked solid in pre-season matches and performed decently in the recent Emirates Cup in London against Real Madrid and Juventus.

“Bayern have had a few problems with their preparations and we have some good results despite one two small difficulties,” Jol said.

“We know they’ve got some player problems. Ribery is out, and Toni, Demichelis and Sagnol are also injured but we’ve also seen that they’ve got other good players.”

Meanwhile Bremen’s Brazilian defender Naldo believes the club is better placed than last season to challenge for the title.

“The team is top fit. Unlike last season we have no injury complaints apart from Per Mertescaker,” he told Kicker sports magazine.

Germany defender Mertesacker, who suffered a cartilage injury in training which needed surgery, will be sidelined for several weeks, while Bremen are also missing Brazil midfielder Diego, who is at the Olympics, for the trip Saturday to Arminia Bielefeld.

Schalke 04, third last season, begin Saturday at home to Hanover under new Dutch coach Fred Rutten and with hopes high of a first Bundesliga title, their last league title coming 50 years ago in the pre-Bundesliga era.

The Gelsenkirchen side may, however, be without Peru striker Jefferson Farfan, a major new signing along with Dutch midfielder Orlando Engelaar, who injured a shoulder in the 1-0 victory Wednesday against Atletico Madrid in a Champions League qualifying match.

Wolfsburg, who finished fifth last term, take on newly-promoted Cologne at home, having spent more than 25 million euros ($37 million) on new players.

Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund cross swords under new coaches, with Bruno Labbadia now in charge at Leverkusen and Juergen Klopp on the bench at Dortmund.

In other matches Saturday, newly-promoted Hoffenheim are at Energie Cottbus, and Karlsruhe entertain Bochum.

Sunday’s matches see Eintracht Frankfurt against Hertha Berlin, while newly-promoted Borussia Moenchenglach meet VfB Stuttgart.

The new season sees the reintroduction after 17 years of a relegation and promotion play-off, with the third-last team to meet the third-placed team in the second division at the end of the campaign.

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