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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 30, 2006

Bundesliga: Bayern intent on demoralising rivals

BERLIN, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich have three games to make up a three-point deficit in the Bundesliga, clinch the honorary title of mid-season champions and deal a heavy psychological blow to their rivals.

That is the target being set by coach Felix Magath, who expects the club's three-match winning run to be extended when they host Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday (1430 GMT).

'I'd like us to recover first place in the league, go through to the next round in the Cup, and take at least a point from our Champions League meeting with Inter Milan, so that we finish top of our group,' Magath told Bayern's website this week.

'We should be able to handle our league programme, so our goal of spending the break in first place is entirely realistic.'

The thought of Bayern finishing the first half of the season in top spot will be a demoralising one for those hoping for a close race for the title.

By their own admission the Bavarians have been mediocre at best yet their rivals have failed to take advantage and build a significant lead.

Despite already losing four league matches they are handily placed in fourth spot, just three points behind leaders Schalke 04 and one behind Werder Bremen and VfB Stuttgart.

Magath will be looking forward to the five-week winter break to give his players the intense conditioning many of them missed because of the World Cup.

The coach should also have a much stronger squad at his disposal. Centre-back Valerien Ismael, midfielders Owen Hargreaves and Sebastian Deisler and striker Lukas Podolski have all missed long periods of the season yet should be back at full fitness by the restart.

'If we are top at the half-way stage I'm very, very sure we'll be champions at the end,' goalkeeper Oliver Kahn told Sport Bild this week.

For Gladbach, a trip to the Allianz Arena could hardly come at a worse time. They have taken just a point from their last seven matches and pressure is building on coach Jupp Heynckes.

The good news is that goalkeeper Kasey Keller should be fit again after missing last weekend's 1-0 defeat by Stuttgart because of a shoulder injury.

Schalke, who edged out Bochum 2-1 in a local derby last time, are in action on Sunday with another awkward game away to Nuremberg, who have lost just twice in the league all season.

Captain Marcelo Bordon should be fit after coming through training on Wednesday but Zlatan Bajramovic and Gustavo Varela are doubtful.

Third-placed Stuttgart are also away from home, against Mainz on Friday, while second-placed Werder Bremen are at home to fifth-placed Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

The biggest problem for Werder may well be keeping focus on the task in hand.

On Tuesday they will be away against Barcelona looking for a point to send them through to the next phase of the Champions League while knocking the holders out.

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