Created on 19-01-2010 at 00:00 AM
Bayern briefly claimed top spot in the Bundesliga with last Friday’s 2-0 win over Hoffenheim, but Leverkusen and Schalke responded on Saturday and Sunday with victories of their own to move back past the nation’s most successful club. It’s still mighty tight at the top though, with Leverkusen on 38 points, Schalke on 37, and Bayern on 36.
“It would have been all a bit too easy to go top straight away with just one win. We need to be patient,” opined Miroslav Klose, who shares the FCB camp’s conviction that the title is well within the club’s grasp this term. “Bayern belong at the top. Our goal is to take over first place as soon as we can.” fcbayern.de has researched seven reasons why the men in red will succeed in their game of catch-up this season.
1) The restart
Bayern already have more points from the first game after the restart than they gathered from the first three fixtures last summer. “We only took two points from our first three games, and only eight from our first five. If we take more this time it’ll be a step forward,” said Mark van Bommel. However, the programme is a tough one, as the next opponents are Bremen, Mainz, Wolfsburg and Dortmund. “These games will tell us where we’re headed,” Van Bommel advised.
2) The tactics
Seven wins on the trot is impressive, but the way Bayern have dominated opponents, scored goals and conceded very few is the real reason for confidence at present: a barren patch similar to the trough of last autumn looks unlikely. “There’s a huge difference in the way we’re playing now. There’s a structure, and it’s obvious what we’re trying to do,” Philipp Lahm observed. “Everyone knows his job, and that’s crucial,” added Van Bommel.
3) The battle for places
After four players left the club in mid-season, 22 stars are now vying for 11 places in the team – i.e. two for every position rather than three or even four. That means every man has a realistic prospect of playing. “A player who feels he’ll never make the team will inevitably ease off in training and stop developing,” explains Christian Nerlinger. However, the continuing fight for places inspires the regulars to keep giving their best. “The reserves try harder, and make it even more difficult for the regulars,” Van Bommel confirmed.
4) The mood in the dressing room
“It’s a fight for places – but it’s fun,” reported Van Bommel, bowled over by the team spirit at FCB: “The training camp in Dubai gave us another boost. There’s no-one here moaning about not playing. I’ve rarely known the mood in a team being as good as this.” That could be a decisive factor, the captain said: “We can beat anyone if we play as a team.”
5) The injury situation
Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Mark van Bommel, Martin Demichelis, Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni were all sidelined with injury for weeks or even months before Christmas. But the entire squad is fit now, with Ribéry set for the matchday squad for the first time in almost four months this Saturday against Bremen. “Everyone’s available, which is great,” said Van Bommel – touching wood as he spoke…
6) Franck Ribéry
Talking of injuries: Ribéry is finally fully fit. The Frenchman is desperate to make his comeback, and could well appear at the weekend. It will take a while for the superstar to fit in properly with the current settled team, Louis van Gaal has warned, but no-one disputes that the player will provide “a powerful weapon on the left,” as Lahm pointed out. Wing duo Ribéry and Robben have only appeared together six times so far, but Robben now hopes “we play the whole of the rest of the season together. We’re both really up for it.” There was no danger of the team losing the delicate balance between defence and attack with Ribéry in the side, Van Bommel insisted. “We’re strong enough to cope with that. We’ll be almost unbeatable with both of them in the team.”
7) Respectful opponents
“We’ve made our rivals a little bit anxious,” Van Gaal declared after the victory over Hoffenheim, as Bayern started the new year where they left off in the old. The second 45 minutes will have made its mark on the rest of the Bundesliga. “They do nothing for a half and then play you off the park. That’s the quality at Bayern,” said Hoffenheim keeper Timo Hildebrand. “That’s nice to hear from an opponent. It confirms we were really good,” responded Van Bommel. “The other teams are showing us much more respect again,” Mario Gomez commented in Dubai. And that just serves to boost the stars’ confidence: “Every player has that old feeling: we’re the real Bayern again.”