Bayern Munich aims for Bundesliga’s elusive top spot

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