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Bundesliga restart

Bayern reopen title drive in Rostock

After sealing a berth in the last eight of the DFB German Cup, Bayern are now keen to underline their Bundesliga title ambitions away to Hansa Rostock on Friday (Live in English from 8.15 pm CET on Web Radio) in the opening fixture of the second half of the league programme. However, the Bavarians are aware they face a more severe test of their credentials than third division Wuppertaler SV provided on Tuesday.

“Hansa Rostock are fighting relegation and have their backs to the wall,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld pointed out ahead of the meeting with the side lying just two points clear of the drop zone in 15th. “They lost in the Cup in midweek, and will be determined to make amends. They’ll be even more focused and aggressive. We know what we can expect.”

Stiff challenge

“There’s no way we’ll underestimate Rostock,” insisted Miroslav Klose, scorer of a brace in the 5-2 defeat of Wuppertal. Despite the midweek Cup results and Bayern’s comfortable 3-0 triumph when the sides met in Munich on opening day, the leaders are bound to be stretched by the strugglers. “This is a different Rostock to the team we beat 3-0. They’ve made good progress and we’ll have to be at our best,” Hitzfeld commented.

Compared to Tuesday’s Cup tie, “we need to improve by 20, 30 percent,” remarked the 59-year-old coach, a sentiment echoed by the club captain: “If we play like we did at the start against Wuppertal, we’re in for a rude and unpleasant awakening,” Oliver Kahn grimaced.

Physical battle

However, Bayern can be optimistic in the light of their second half display in the Cup. “It’s obvious we’re already in good shape,” commented right-back Willy Sagnol, set for a first Bundesliga start in ten months. “We need to be cautious, and make sure we win the physical battle, like we did in the second half in Wuppertal. That’s the key to success.“

However, Hitzfeld feels Friday’s encounter will not descend into a war of attrition. “Rostock are capable of good football and they’ll keep us busy in defence. They have a strong forward line, and they’re dangerous on the break and at set pieces. We’ll have plenty of work to do,” the General admonished.

Reds in good spirits

In terms of the line-up on Friday, Hitzfeld is without Marcell Jansen (rehab after surgery), Lukas Podolski (slipped disc), Bastian Schweinsteiger (one-match suspension) and Michael Rensing (back). New signing Breno is still working on his fitness and is not a contender for the matchday squad at the present time.

After the six-week mid-season break, Hitzfeld said he was “delighted the Bundesliga’s back. We’ve prepared well and we’re in good physical shape.” A confident Sagnol predicted silverware at the end of the campaign: “It wouldn’t be a surprise if we won in Rostock. Taking the season as a whole, I can’t think of a better Bundesliga team than a fit Bayern Munich.“

Squad: Kahn, Dreher, Sagnol, Lucio, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Lahm, Lell, Ribéry, Altintop, Zé Roberto, Ottl, Van Bommel, Sosa, Kroos, Toni, Klose, Schlaudraff
Unavailable: Rensing (back), Jansen (rehab training), Podolski (slipped disc), Schweinsteiger (suspended), Breno (fitness)

Referee: Florian Meyer (Burgdorf)

Bayern’s record in the fixture: P11 W7 D1 L3 F21 A8