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Confounding the odds

Why the league title is well within reach

Sunday’s final match of the first half of the Bundesliga programme saw Schalke 04 come within 20 minutes of beating TSG Hoffenheim, a result which would have put Bayern top of the league at the halfway mark. But Selim Teber equalised to earn Hoffenheim the point they needed to hold onto first place on goal difference.

On pure statistical probability, Ralf Rangnick’s promoted side stand a 68.8 percent chance of hoisting the championship shield next May. In 31 of the 45 seasons since the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963, the leaders at the midpoint of the season ended up as champions. It is also only the second time a promoted club has claimed the unofficial ‘autumn championship’. The first occasion saw Kaiserslautern top the Christmas standings in 1997-8 – and the Red Devils went on to win the league.

Naturally, the Bayern camp feels history is not set to repeat itself. “We have justifiable hopes of retaining the title, and every reason to be optimistic about the future,“ chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge declared at the weekend. has identified seven good reasons why the shield is destined to remain in Munich this term.

Seven reasons why Bayern will retain the title:

1. Mid-season training: Compared to the situation last summer, as the club’s host of Euro 2008 stars returned to the club in dribs and drabs, Jürgen Klinsmann will take charge of a full squad right from the start. The coach will supervise all his players together from 2 January onwards.

2. Klinsmann’s philosophy has taken root: The difficult pre-season contributed to a longer bedding in period for Jürgen Klinsmann’s new methods, but Bayern have now gone 16 matches without defeat. “Our players’ fitness and improvement as individuals are clearly down to Klinsmann,” Rummenigge commented.

3. Luca Toni: Luca Toni has scored nine goals at the midpoint of the season, exactly the same as last term, although the Italian has played two games fewer (13 this term, 15 last season). But in another parallel with 2007-8, his rhythm was disturbed by a string of minor injuries from pre-season onwards. After a productive winter training period last year, the Italian netted 15 goals in the second half of the season and finished as the league’s leading scorer – and that could easily be the case again this season.