Hamburg defend Bundesliga lead as Bayern seek winning form

October 2nd, 2008 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern MunichHamburg, Oct 2 (DPA) SV Hamburg travel to Energie Cottbus hoping to defend their lead at the top of the Bundesliga while champions Bayern Munich play catch-up at home to Bochum in weekend league action.Bayern are in midtable after their worst start to a Bundesliga season in 31 years, winning just two of their opening six games.

After back-to-back defeats at home to Werder Bremen (5-2) and away to Hanover (1-0), coach Juergen Klinsmann badly needs a victory against visiting Bochum to silence the murmurings of disquiet.

A Champions League home draw Tuesday against French side Lyon went some way to rehabilitating the side.

Klinsmann was boosted by an improved display and the first start by French midfielder Franck Ribery this season following a long injury lay-off.

Captain Mark van Bommel was left out of the side, with Klinsmann choosing Argentina’s Martin Demichelis in the defensive midfield role, but the coach’s rotation policy means there could again be changes for Saturday.

“To compete in Europe and cope with the rhythm of the Cup, the Bundesliga and the Champions League, we need rotation - not in every position, but definitely in certain areas,” Klinsmann had said last week in explaining his changes.

Klinsmann has the backing of general manager Uli Hoeness, who said: “You have to give the coach the right the pick the team he believes is the best.”

Although Bayern were held to a 1-1 draw by Lyon, the performance has gone some way to dispel feelings of gloom.

“The team played very well against a high-class opponent and there was no comparison at all with the match in Hanover. It gives me hopes that we can can also start producing different performances in the Bundesliga,” Hoeness said.

Bochum, struggling near the foot of the table, could be the ideal opponents for Bayern whose one and only defeat in 32 home matches against the team from the Ruhr region was 17 years ago.

The top of the table remains tight, with only three points separating the first seven sides.

Hamburg were unimpressive in beating Borussia Moenchengladbach 1-0 at home last week but coach Martin Jol will be pleased with a similar result in Cottbus Sunday.

Among the chasing pack, fourth-placed Schalke 04 take on Felix Magath’s Wolfsburg, while fifth-placed Borussia Dortmund are at home to Hanover in Sunday’s two other matches.

It could mean a new league leader for at least 24 hours after Saturday’s games, in which second-placed Bayer Leverkusen - on 12 points, one behind Hamburg - entertain Hertha Berlin, third-placed Werder Bremen (11) travel to VfB Stuttgart (10), and promoted Hoffenheim (10) meet Eintracht Frankfurt.

Cologne meanwhile travel to neighbours Borussia Moenchengladbach, who are now at the foot of the table with reports that coach Jos Luhakay needs a win to stave of early dismissal.

After losing three games in a row, one of them in the German Cup against second-division Mainz, Cologne bounced back last weekend by beating Schalke 1-0.

The Bundesliga programme begins Friday evening when Arminia Bielefeld meet Karlsruhe, two teams in the lower reaches of the table.

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