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Respect flowing for German leaders Hoffenheim

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 1 Nov 2008

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Defending champions Bayern Munich will continue their assault on top place in the Bundesliga Saturday, but even the Bavarian giants admit no one can take current leaders Hoffenheim lightly.

Despite defeats to Werder Bremen and Hanover in September, Bayern have rocketed up the league table from 11th to fourth in the last seven days after wins over Wolfsburg and Frankfurt.

But Hoffenheim, in their first season in the Bundesliga after promotion last season, are top of the table with seven wins in ten games and under ex-Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick have forced the rest of the league to take note.

They are a point clear at the top and are at Karlsruhe on Saturday, when Bayern play host to struggling Arminia Bielefeld.

“It is clear that we cannot shake this team off so easily,” said Bayern manager Uli Hoeness.

“Hoffenheim have established themselves, I take my hat off to their achievements.”

With backing from local multi-millionaire Dietmar Hopp, Hoffenheim have built a title-winning team and in striker Vedad Ibisevic have the league's top-scorer with 11 goals in ten games.

“They have a super, super system,” said Bayern captain Mark van Bommel who compared Hoffenheim's playing structure with Barcelona.

Both Bayern and Hoffenheim should be sure of taking three points on Saturday.

Munich striker Luca Toni is likely to have recovered from his rib injury and looks set to take over from Germany striker Lukas Podolski who replaced him, with little effect, in the wins against Wolfsburg and Frankfurt.

“He has had two chances and not used them,” fumed Hoeness.

Bielefeld are hovering just above the relegation zone and the last time they picked up a point in Munich was when they drew 3-3 in 1985.

Hoffenheim will have virtually a full strength side against Karlsruhe, who are without suspended defender Maik Franz after he was sent off in the 3-0 defeat against Schalke 04 on Tuesday night.

Although their manager Klaus Allofs refuses to use the word crisis, Werder Bremen have dropped to tenth having failed to win their last four games and face Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

“We have too few points,” said Allofs.

“At the moment, we are not good enough to reach our realistic goals.

“It's plain to see in the league table and is something we have to improve on.”

Bremen's defence crumbled on Tuesday when they lost 2-0 to Bayer Leverkusen, while Hertha are bouyant and up to fifth in the league after their 3-0 win over Hanover in midweek.

But all is not well behind the scenes in the Berlin squad with striker Marko Pantelic launching a war-of-words with coach Lucien Favre.

Having dropped to third in the table, Martin Jol-coached Hamburg will be looking to keep the pressure on Hoffenheim at Hanover.

Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen are in action against eighth-placed Wolfsburg on Friday night.

Friday

Bayer Leverkusen v VfL Wolfsburg

Saturday

Bayern Munich v Arminia Bielefeld

Werder Bremen v Hertha Berlin

VfB Stuttgart v Cologne

Hanover 96 v Hamburg

Energie Cottbus v Schalke 04

Hoffenheim v Karlsruhe

Sunday

Borussia Dortmund v VfL Bochum

Borussia M'gladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt

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