|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Bayern aim for clean sweep after last season's failure
Erik Kirschbaum | August 02, 2007 11:33 IST
Throwing away their traditional frugality, Bayern acquired France's [Images] Franck Ribery, Italy's [Images] Luca Toni, Turkey's Hamit Altintop, Argentine Jose Ernesto Sosa along with Germans Miroslav Klose, Marcell Jansen and Jan Schlaudraff.
"We want to win every competition we're in," said coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, whose new-look team won their first prize on Saturday by lifting the traditional season-opening tournament, the League Cup.
"Bayern had a difficult season and it's up to us to turn it around."
The 20-times German champions took the League Cup especially seriously, thrashing the three Champions League-bound teams that finished ahead of them by a combined 7-1 goal tally: champions VfB Stuttgart (2-0), Schalke 04 (1-0) and Werder Bremen (4-1).
They want to reclaim the Bundesliga crown from last season's surprise package Stuttgart and have spoken brazenly about also winning the UEFA Cup and the German Cup.
Keeping so many internationals happy, including Germany's [Images] Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, will be no easy task for Hitzfeld, especially because Ribery and Toni speak almost no German -- once a tacit requirement to play for Bayern.
"We've got some integration difficulties to master, such as language barriers," he said. "We've got unknowns to sort out."
Stuttgart, Schalke and Werder Bremen are expected to be the main challengers to Bayern with some oddsmakers tipping a steadily improving Bayer Leverkusen and a rejuvenated Hamburg SV as teams also in contention.
However, Werder were weakened by the forced sale of Klose to Bayern and a pre-season injury to captain Torsten Frings while Schalke are struggling after selling Brazilian playmaker Lincoln to Galatasaray and losing Altintop to Bayern.
Stuttgart, for their part, lost Germany reserve goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand to Valencia. Their main addition is Turkey midfielder Yildiray Basturk from Hertha Berlin.
It is uncertain how the title-holders, who shot from ninth to first last season, will cope with the dual burdens of the Bundesliga and a first Champions League campaign in four years with only a marginally improved team.
Stuttgart had an amazing eight-match winning streak at the end of last term to rally from third to first. However, after heavy celebrations, they were beaten and clearly outplayed by Nuremberg in the German Cup final a week later.
Even Stuttgart are referring to Bayern as the favourites.
"We need more motivation," coach Armin Veh said, confirming media reports that his team might have lost their edge. "Everyone's got their problems but we've got to be motivated."
At the bottom of the table, where eight clubs spent much of last season battling relegation, another tense fight is expected.
Arminia Bielefeld, Energie Cottbus, Eintracht Frankfurt, VfL Wolfsburg as well as promoted Karlsruhe SC, Hansa Rostock, and MSV Duisburg have set their top goal as avoiding relegation.