presented by
League Cup final berth

Slick Bayern whet appetite for more

The Säbener Straße stewards were again busy folk on Thursday morning as 1,500 fans basked in the sunshine while they observed the morning training session. The vast majority stayed put after the session in the hope of collecting an autograph or two, and most were successful, as the best part of the squad happily signed away to a warm round of appreciative applause.

With two weeks to go until the Reds open their Bundesliga campaign at home to Hansa Rostock, the wave of enthusiasm surrounding the club is reaching new heights almost daily. The fires are being stoked by Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men, who followed up a thrilling 4-1 victory over Werder Bremen in the League Cup quarter-final with a 2-0 semi-final success against league champions VfB Stuttgart to earn a tilt at the first trophy of the new term in Saturday’s final meeting with Schalke 04.

Hoeneß warns against arrogance

“Provided they’re all fit, we definitely have a great team,” manager Uli Hoeneß declared after Wednesday’s match at the Gottlieb-Daimler stadium, before moving to dampen the rising tide of euphoria: “We’d be well advised to keep it simple. We mustn’t become arrogant.“

The new-look side’s outstanding early-season form must nevertheless have pleased the board director, especially as top signings Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Jose Sosa were missing in Stuttgart. On the other hand, Franck Ribery has managed to win a place in the hearts of both fans and management in the shortest imaginable time.

Praise for Ribery

“He just goes out and enjoys himself, he exudes confidence to all those around him. He’s good for the Bundesliga as a whole,” coach Hitzfeld enthused after another Ribery gala against VfB. The Frenchman added a superb goal and an assist to the brace he struck against Bremen last weekend.

“He’s a sensational player,” Germany international Philipp Lahm admiringly declared. “He can explode from nowhere, and enjoys scoring goals,” Hitzfeld added. “I hope I can keep on improving,” was all the versatile, multi-faceted star would say. Unfortunately for Bayern and their fans, the newcomer is rated doubtful for Saturday’s final with a knee injury.

Options galore

Ribery is providing the moments of skill and magic right now, but the team as a whole is functioning extraordinarily smoothly for a newly-formed unit. “We were good tonight in all areas of the park. I want to praise the whole team, we all worked hard,” commented defender Daniel van Buyten. A below-strength Stuttgart side created only one chance worthy of note, Cacau’s 20-yard drive on 50 minutes.

“It’s good we kept a clean sheet. That’ll give us confidence in defence,” Hitzfeld remarked. “We’re unpredictable, and that’s our philosophy,” insisted Hamit Altintop, who won yet more friends and admirers with another excellent midfield display. “This team is complete and we have plenty of options,” Lahm concluded. The Bavarians are now hoping to underline their burgeoning reputation against Schalke. If they succeed, the stewards at the Säbener Straße are bound to have their hands full again on Sunday.