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Battle for places

‘We want to see who’s truly fired up’

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It’s a simple enough equation: 24 players and 11 men on a team equals a battle for places, a mathematical poser currently being solved out on the mid-season practice ground at Bayern. “The internal competition has been very lively since the first day back,” observed Jürgen Klinsmann, currently watching every one of his players with an especially close eye.

The head coach has noticed how “certain players are desperately trying to make it into the first team,” he told No doors are closed at the moment. “The team does have its spine, because the players who performed so well towards Christmas start with a minor bonus. But you always make minor adjustments in preparation periods,” Klinsmann remarked, “and we’re keeping an eye on that. We want to see who’s truly fired up.”

Foot to the accelerator

One of the aforementioned group must surely be Hamit Altintop. The Turkey star, sidelined for practically the whole season so far with injury, is desperate to reclaim his place in the line-up. “Hamit has really hit the gas,” Klinsmann acknowledged. However, the likes of Daniel van Buyten, Tim Borowski and Christian Lell, who is almost certain to deputise for Massimo Oddo during the Italian’s three-match Bundesliga suspension, are also battling to prove themselves in competitive action.

Newcomer Landon Donovan is another man with a point to prove. The USA international is on loan at Bayern until mid-March, but would dearly love a longer spell with FCB. Klinsmann feels the striker has made a good start: “I have a very positive impression of Donovan, not just in our friendly matches, but also because he’s fitting in well with the group.” However, as the coach knows: “Making the breakthrough at Bayern doesn’t happen overnight.”

Places at stake

With the DFB Cup tie away to VfB Stuttgart on 27 January still two weeks into the future, the players have time enough to stake their claims in training and three further warm-up fixtures. “Places are up for grabs,” Klinsmann confirmed, “we’re extremely interested in what happens over the next couple of weeks.”