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Magath looks to repeat magic at Schalke as Bundesliga kicks off

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Magath looks to repeat magic at Schalke as Bundesliga kicks off
Photo: DPA
16:45 CEST+02:00
Having won the Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg last season, Felix Magath will now try to work the same magic on Schalke 04 when the season begins on Friday eveing.

The 56-year-old, who won two league titles with Bayern Munich before he was sacked in February 2007, hardly put a foot wrong last season as the side he built swept the league.

While Bayern Munich faltered and eventually sacked ex-Germany coach Jürgen Klinsmann in April, Wolfsburg picked up their first league crown in May, only for Magath to then quit to become coach and team manager at Schalke.

The Royal Blues spent most of last season in disarray and Magath's first job has to be to build some team spirit and plug gaps in their defence before their first league game against newly-promoted Nuremburg on Saturday. His replacement at Wolfsburg, Armin Veh, won the league title with Stuttgart in 2007, and his first game in charge is against his former club in the season's opening game.

Veh is fortunate Wolfsburg have managed to keep hold of key strikers Edwin Dzeko and Brazilian Grafite despite interest from some of Europe's top clubs while on Wednesday they were boosted as Bosnian international midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic extended his contract until 2013.

Between them Dzeko and Grafite netted 54 league goals, but it remains to be seen if the team can repeat their surprise success or handle the step up to the Champions League where they will make their debut.

"The team is very motivated. My initial impressions from the first training camp have absolutely been confirmed," said Veh whose attacking options have been further boosted by the arrival of Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins from Newcastle. "We are looking forward to the season and showing what we can do."

The man with the highest-profile job in German league football is Dutchman Louis van Gaal who arrives as Bayern Munich coach to try to succeed where Klinsmann failed.

Previous achievements count for nothing at success-greedy Bayern where domestic honours are demanded and Champions League success is expected. The 57-year-old van Gaal has inherited an embarrassment of riches in attack with Bayern's squad containing Germany strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose, as well as Italian World Cup winner Luca Toni and Croatia's Ivica Olic.

Promising youngster Thomas Müller makes it five forwards pushing for two places in van Gaal's starting line-up and the straight-taking ex-Holland coach is expected to stamp his mark on the side. Their club president German football legend Franz Beckenbauer is in no doubt of the quality of the present squad.

"This is the best ever Bayern side," 'The Kaiser' proudly declared, though, his words may come back to haunt him. "We want to become German champions and at the very least reach the Champions League quarter-finals if not the semis."

German national coach Joachim Löw does not share Beckenbauer's optimism.

"It (the league title) will not be a formality," said Löw. "There are several sides who have made progress in the past few years in terms of consistency and quality. Maybe there will be another surprise winner such as Stuttgart and Wolfsburg."

Bayern captain Mark van Bommel said the players are responding to van Gaal's direct approach.

"He clearly tells us what he wants to see. He's a straight talker, he corrects you and urges you on."

Raised voices on the practice ground from time to time are not a problem, says van Bommel. "It's criticism to help you improve. It's well-intentioned, to stop it happening again."

The Dutchman's first league game in charge is against last season's dark horses Hoffenheim who led the league on their debut Bundesliga season at Christmas before falling off the pace.

The loss of striker Vedad Ibisevic with a cruciate ligament injury in the winter break was a devastating blow, but coach Ralf Rangnick can ill-afford another collapse which saw his side slump to mid-table.

Of the three sides coming up - Nuremberg, Freiburg and Mainz - Nuremberg can be expected to handle the move up after only two seasons out of German's top flight.

Mainz by contrast hardly enter the season in a good state, though, they have already made Bundesliga history before a ball has been kicked after they became the first ever side to sack their coach prior to the start of the season when they removed Norwegian Jorn Andersen on Monday.

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