Bayern Munich aims for Bundesliga’s elusive top spot

Host Bayern Munich is hoping a home win over Hoffenheim on Friday night will put them at the top of the Bundesliga more than 18 months after they last led the German league.

Bayern Munich aims for Bundesliga's elusive top spot
The Bayern Munich boys training together over the winter break. Photo: DPA

Bayern has been crowned German champion 21 times, but May 2008 was the last time it sat on top of the Bundesliga, as the team led by coach Louis van Gaal’s currently sits third in the table and two points behind leaders Leverkusen.

Their main rivals Leverkusen will play mid-table Mainz on Saturday while second-placed Schalke is home against second-from-bottom strugglers Nuremberg.

But whatever the results in the rest of the league, Bayern knows it needs an impressive win over Hoffenheim at Munich’s Allianz Arena to underline their credentials as title-contenders.

“We want to send a clear signal to the rest of the league,” said goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt. “Starting the new year with a victory would be no bad thing.”

French star Franck Ribery is not expected back from a foot injury until the league clash with Bremen on January 23.

Bayern warmed up for its first game after the Bundesliga’s winter break with a 3-1 win over Swiss side Basel on Tuesday in a friendly.

With league games against Hoffenheim, Bremen, Mainz and defending champions Wolfsburg to start the year, Bayern has a big job ahead, but midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger says the team is aiming for a high-scoring game.

“It would obviously be fantastic to take 12 points from those games,” he said.

Strikers Mario Gomez and Ivica Olic will start for Bayern with Germany star Miroslav Klose on the bench.

Hoffenheim is seventh in the table and will be missing Chinedu Obasi and Isaac Vorsah (on African Cup of Nations duty), as well as Luiz Gustavo, due to his red card in the game against Stuttgart. Tobias Weis, Matthias Jaissle and Prince Tagoe are also out with injuries.

“Bayern is the biggest side in Germany. It’s always a big challenge to get points in Munich,” said Hoffenheim defender Andreas Beck.

Meanwhile Leverkusen is the only undefeated Bundesliga team and they will have Germany striker Patrick Helmes on the bench now that he has recovered from a cruciate knee injury.

Schalke’s game against Nuremberg on Sunday will go ahead despite a large hole appearing in the roof of the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen. The team made their third signing of the winter break on Tuesday when they recruited German defender Tim Hoogland from Mainz.

Hoogland joins German midfielder Alexander Baumjohann – who signed from Bayern Munich having played just three times for the German giants since joining six months ago – and Brazilian striker Edu from Korean team Suwon Blue Wings.

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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.