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Level with the leaders

Champions ideally placed at halfway mark

Late on Sunday afternoon, when Bundesliga leaders TSG Hoffenheim entertained Schalke 04 in the final match of the first half of the league programme, most of the Bayern playing and coaching staff were gathered at a secret location near the Tegernsee lake. “We have our Christmas party tomorrow, so we have better things to do,“ declared manager Uli Hoeneß when asked if he would be following the game on TV. “I won’t be watching, because we’re on holiday now,” agreed Philipp Lahm on Saturday after Bayern’s 2-2 draw in Stuttgart.

Even if Hoeneß, Lahm and Co really decided against switching on the TV, they will certainly not be dissatisfied with the result from Mannheim, where TSG and S04 drew 1-1 at the end of a tense and incident-packed encounter. New kids on the block Hoffenheim, the surprise package of the season so far, thus claim the unofficial ‘autumn championship’ awarded to the league leaders at the halfway point in the campaign, but only on goal difference from the Bavarians.

Bayern boss Jürgen Klinsmann had already issued a positive summary of the season so far. “The team has been really impressive in recent months and we’re ideally placed for the second half of the campaign – regardless of how it ends in Hoffenheim,” the coach observed, “we’re exactly where we wanted to be."