Created on 21-01-2009 at 00:00 AM
Promoted TSG 1899 Hoffenheim may top the standings at the halfway mark, but all 18 Bundesliga coaches believe the championship shield is destined for the Bayern trophy cabinet this season, according to a survey of top flight bosses carried out by news agency dpa.
Hoffenheim’s stunning rise to the top of the pile drew great respect and recognition from the head coaches, but none believes Ralf Rangnick and his side are yet capable of claiming the ultimate prize. “Bayern will come through, despite their problems at the start. They have the strongest squad, and they’ll benefit from their experience in the title race,” commented Wolfsburg chief Felix Magath, himself a former league title winner with Bayern.
The sheer class in the Munich squad and the players’ far greater experience compared to Hoffenheim’s young side would prove irresistible, the coaches agreed. “It’s the squad players,” commented Energie Cottbus boss Bojan Prasnikar, “no other team has that kind of quality”.
The head coaches backed Bayern for the title in a similar survey carried out in pre-season, although many felt certain other clubs would put up more of a challenge than has proved the case. Not one of the bosses named Hoffenheim as any kind of serious threat to the men from Munich.
Experience over youth
Bremen’s Thomas Schaaf was the only coach explicitly mentioning the newcomers in his deliberations over the destination of the title. “Bayern and Hoffenheim are the first names to mention. They’ve been the most consistent so far,” Schaaf reflected, “but at the end of the day, Bayern’s experience may tip it in their favour.”
Rangnick himself conceded that FCB were favourites to claim the shield. “There won’t be a two-horse race between Bayern and Hoffenheim. There are plenty of other teams, the likes of Hamburg, Leverkusen, Bremen, Schalke, Berlin and Stuttgart, who all want a place at the top,” commented the TSG coach, keen for his men to turn their brand new 30,000 capacity Rhein-Neckar Arena in Sinsheim into a point-generating fortress.
Bayern’s heavy schedule
Bayern boss Jürgen Klinsmann is expecting “an exciting title race going right to the last day”, noting that the Reds’ rivals could benefit from his own club’s “mammoth” playing schedule.
“I expect Hoffenheim to be there or thereabouts, and Bremen will bounce back too. But if we stay focused, we’ll win the league,” Klinsmann declared. FC Köln coach Christoph Daum choase an elegant but thoroughly suggestive phrase: “Any team wanting to end up as champions has to get past Bayern first.”