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PENDING – Lacklustre Munich struggle to keep pace

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 7 Mar 2009

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Bayern Munich’s mounting problems with Jurgen Klinsmann’s job in danger, doubts over Franck Ribery staying and their lacklustre start to the year have come into focus as they host Hanover on Saturday.

Wednesday’s 4-2 German Cup elimination by Bayer Leverkusen has yet further dampened their confidence as they lie fifth in the league, four points behind leaders Hertha Berlin.

Coach Klinsmann was pragmatic about what needed to be done following their Cup quarter-final defeat as title holders.

“A defeat is always painful,” Klinsmann said. “Criticism will come following Wednesday night’s match, I know that but we just have to continue to work.”

Demanding Bayern fans are increasingly showing their displeasure at Klinsmann, who arrived eight months ago to great fanfare yet results have not been up to the standard they expect and there have been some calls for his departure.

Leaders Berlin meanwhile visit easterners Energie Cottbus, hoping to increase their one-point lead over Hamburg, who travel to Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday. Bayer Leverkusen host VfL Bochum on Sunday.

Bayern’s start to 2009 so far has been poor. Since coming back from the winter break at the end of January, they have racked up just one win combined with three defeats and a draw.

Rumours about the probable departure of star attacking midfielder Ribery, probably to either Real Madrid or Barcelona, have not helped team morale and the player himself admits finding media questions tiresome.

Hanover beat Munich 1-0 in their early-season fixture however which does not augur well for Klinsmann’s men though should Bayern prevail, the tight bunching at the top of the table could see them climb up.

Left-sided defender Philipp Lahm is back to fitness after recovering from illness and should return to the starting line-up though striker Luca Toni is still doubtful with an Achilles problem.

Bad news for Klinsmann however is that midfield trio Ribery (calf), Tim Borowski (thigh) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (foot) are all doubtful with knocks from the Leverkusen setback.

Skipper Mark van Bommel is definitely out of the Hanover match having been suspended for accumulating five yellow cards.

Hoffenheim’s Saturday hosting of Werder Bremen, admittedly a pale shadow of their form from last season, will be of major interest to Bundesliga fans.

Promoted early-season leaders Hoffenheim, bankrolled by Dietmar Hopp, may have gone down a notch in form but they remain a respectable third, two points off the pace.

German league fixtures (kick-off times in GMT):

Friday: Schalke 04 v Cologne (1930)

Saturday: Hoffenheim v Werder Bremen, Borussia Monchengladbach v Hamburg, Bayern Munich v Hanover, Energie Cottbus v Hertha Berlin, VfL Wolfsburg v Karlsruhe, VfB Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund (all 1430)

Sunday: Arminia Bielefeld v Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen v VfL Bochum (1600)

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