Munich at Leverkusen for first of two crucial showdowns

November 27th, 2008 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern MunichHamburg, Nov 27 (DPA) Bayern Munich appear to have the momentum on their side when they visit dethroned leaders Bayer Leverkusen in the first of two crucial Bundesliga matches for the champions.Munich beat bottom club Energie Cottbus 4-1 last weekend and a 3-0 defeat of Steaua Bucharest for a place in the round of the 16 of the European Champions League Tuesday further bolstered team morale.

Leverkusen, by contrast, are coming off a 2-1 defeat at lowly Bielefeld and their home record against Munich is the worst they have against any team. They last beat Munich at home in 2004.

The two sides are currently locked on 28 points, three points behind leaders Hoffenheim, who Munich host next week in their quest to top the table into the winter break after an indifferent start to the season.

“We want to become autumn champion but that is not our main goal. We want to be top after 34 rounds,” Munich captain Mark van Bommel told Kicker sports magazine.

“We know that we can beat Leverkusen and Hoffenheim. It depends on us whether we win.”

With Franck Ribery, Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose firing on all cylinders, Leverkusen’s main aim will be to contain Munich’s attacking lineup.

But the hosts also have a formidable forward line with Germany striker Patrick Helmes and Stefan Kiessling trying to expose further weaknesses in Munich’s sometimes sloppy defence.

“The defeat (in Bielefeld) was bitter, no question. But we haven’t lost twice in a row this season. We must draw the right conclusions out of the defeat,” said Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes.

Rolfes insisted that the pressure was on Munich because his team has already played beyond all expectations.

Munich have won six of their last seven games and drawn in the other, but German football fans have more faith in Hoffenheim to top the table into the hibernation period in mid-December.

A online poll published by Kicker Thursday said that 49.09 per cent of 28,232 participants named Hoffenheim, 32.56 per cent Bayern and only 10.72 Leverkusen as leaders at the halfway mark.

“The constellation is interesting. Our main aim is to rake in as many points as possible until the winter break,” said Hoffenheim’s Andreas Beck.

Hoffenheim host Bielefeld and have no reason to underestimate them given the visitors’ win over Leverkusen which lifted them out of the drop zone into 14th place.

“Bielefeld will have confidence but we are out to take the points. We are all enjoying ourselves and you can see that things are going well,” said Beck.

That can not be said of VfB Stuttgart, who have slumped to 11th place sacked coach Armin Veh Sunday. The 2007 champions hope for improvement under new helmsman Markus Babbel in a difficult task against Schalke 04 Sunday.

Also Sunday, fifth-placed SV Hamburg aim for victory at 16th-placed VfL Bochum to stay in contention for the top. That also applies to number four Hertha Berlin, who open the weekend round on Friday against Cologne.

The other games are Werder Bremen vs Eintracht Frankfurt, Hanover 96 vs SC Karlsruhe, Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Cottbus (Saturday) and Borussia Dortmund vs VfL Wolfsburg (Sunday).

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