Created on 16-03-2009 at 00:00 AM
With the German top flight clubs well into the final third of the Bundesliga season, the race for the league title promises to be the closest for many long years. With ten games to go, five clubs still entertain realistic hopes of lifting the championship shield, as a mere six points cover the teams from leaders Hertha BSC Berlin down to 1899 Hoffenheim in fifth.
The men from the capital rate as a surprise package this term with exceptional consistency at the head of the standings, but the pursuing pack are embroiled in a fierce contest to reel in the leaders. Hertha have 49 points, four more than Bayern, Wolfsburg and Hamburg. Hoffenheim are a further two points back, although the promoted club have faded slightly with no win in their last six matches.
Half-a-dozen at home
“It's important Berlin feel our hot Bavarian breath on their necks. It's time they suffered a slip-up of their own,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge declared after FCB’s routine 3-0 victory over Bochum on Saturday. “We’re in a pretty good position. We have ten games to play, six at home and four away. Hertha have six away and only four at home,” general manager Uli Hoeneß pointed out, “let’s wait and see what happens.”
Champions Munich may well have a slight edge as a result of the fixture situation. Of Hertha’s six remaining away games, trips to Stuttgart, Hoffenheim and Hamburg look especially challenging on paper. “Hertha are on a roll right now, but we’re not about to panic. They have some very nasty games on the road,” acknowledged Bayern boss Jürgen Klinsmann.
Best away team
By contrast, FCB do look to have the easier away schedule. The champions will hope to earn points in Bielefeld and Cottbus, and although the Bavarians still have to visit Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim, their record of 22 points from 13 away fixtures is far and away the best of any title contender. “We have to do our homework. We won’t let up and we’ll keep pushing. Our time will come,” Klinsmann insisted, certain his side will assume first place sooner or later.
VfL Wolfsburg would appear to have least challenging away programme of all with forthcoming trips to Bielefeld, Gladbach, Cottbus, Stuttgart and Hannover, but the team coached by former Bayern supremo Felix Magath have amassed a mere 11 points on their travels so far. Furthermore, the best home team in the league still have to entertain Bayern, Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, Dortmund and a resurgent Werder Bremern.
The tough get going
Bayern’s remaining matches at the Allianz Arena involve Karlsruhe, Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen and VfB Stuttgart. “We know we’re expected to win the league, but we thrive under pressure,” Klinsmann remarked.
Hamburg must travel to Schalke, Stuttgart, Berlin, Bremen and Frankfurt, while Hoffenheim’s road schedule features Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Wolfsburg, Bielefeld and Schalke. A number of those games look far from simple, but as everyone knows, predictions and bets count for nothing once the actual results start coming in. Bayern will have taken heed of Daniel van Buyten’s wise words: “It’s important we keep on winning, and we’ll only worry about our rivals after that.”