Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Bayern favorites to triumph in Bundesliga once again


Title-holders and favorites Bayern Munich kick off the Bundesliga season tonight against Borussia Dortmund as the whole league hopes to ride the wave of World Cup euphoria.

Germany's third-place finish at the home event in June and last month has led to high hopes that the league will see even bigger crowds and better games.

"The World Cup will have a positive effect on the Bundesliga. We will see many new fans," Munich general manager Uli Hoeness said.

Former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann and his successor Joachim Loew have urged the league to play more attacking soccer and at least Munich's club leadership seems willing to follow this advice.

But coach Felix Magath warned: "I would like to see good football as well, but it is not good to demand this of us. It doesn't work this way."

Munich had to swallow the departure of Germany captain Michael Ballack to English champions Chelsea, but have invested 10 million euros (US$12.8 million) each in Belgium central defender Daniel van Buyten and Germany striker Lukas Podolski.

Podolski can now also play at club level with his friend Bastian Schweinsteiger -- the two being the symbols of the new German soccer euphoria.

Magath has warned that a third straight title is not a foregone conclusion as Munich's numerous World Cup players have only been in training for a fortnight.

"These are tough conditions. We must expect some setbacks early in the season," Magath warned.

"We were the first club to win the league and cup double two years in a row. I hope we can do it again but there is no guarantee," he said.

But Munich are nonetheless the favorites, with the biggest threat expected from Werder Bremen, SV Hamburg and Schalke 04.

"Our aim is the title," Bremen general manager Klaus Allofs said.

The 2004 champions Bremen lost playmaker Johan Micoud, but like Munich have invested as well in the likes of Pierre Wome from Inter Milan, playmaker Diego from Porto and Germany defender Per Mertesacker who was finally signed when an on-of transfer deal was concluded earlier in the week with Frank Fahrenhorst going from Bremen to Hanover.

Micoud and Ballack are not the only prominent players the league has lost as Dimitar Berbatov moved from Bayer Leverkusen to Tottenham, Tomas Rosicky from Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal and Andreas Hinkel from VfB Stuttgart to Sevilla.

VfL Bochum return after a one-year absence, Energie Cottbus put eastern Germany back on the Bundesliga map after three years and Alemannia Aachen are back in the top flight for the first time since 1970.

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