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Title favorites Bremen and Bayern lose players as Bundesliga play resumes

Title favorites Bremen and Bayern lose players as Bundesliga play resumes

Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich are expected to overcome the loss of key players and fight for the title when the Bundesliga ends its long winter break this weekend.
Bayern was hit hardest during the 40-day hiatus when Sebastian Deisler retired after an injury troubled career. Regarded as a huge talent, he was expected to return from another operation and lift the club's mediocre midfield.
Bayern hopes either Mark van Bommel or Bastian Schweinsteiger can fill the hole left behind by the creative Deisler despite lackluster seasons thus far.
"Something has to happen in midfield," Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer said. "It would be good if we could find a playmaker."
Bayern coach Felix Magath and other club officials insist the team can win a 20th Bundesliga title despite four losses and the slowest league start in club history leaving it third in the standings.
"Everybody knows our players rarely performed at 100 percent during the first half," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. "But they must now if we are to reach our season goals."
Bayern kicks off the second half Friday with a match against Borussia Dortmund, but for once many observers don't consider it the Bundesliga's best team.
That honor belongs to Bremen, which produced one rout after another with 47 goals in 17 matches. Nonetheless, the club has slipped up often enough so that it is tied with Schalke at 36 points from 17 games, despite a huge edge in goal difference.
Bayern is at 33 and the young team of Stuttgart at 32, although most don't consider a roster full of players from its developmental system ready to make a serious run at the title.
Bremen, which faces Hannover 96 on Sunday, is comfortable being the title favorite. In its first-half with Bayern matchup, Bremen won 3-1.
"It's clear, we want and expect to be champions," said midfielder Torsten Frings, one of Bremen's eight Germany players.
Bremen lost its starting forward from last season, Ivan Klasnic, who faces a kidney transplant. The club is now searching for a running mate to Miroslav Klose, who shares the league's scoring lead with 10 goals. But attempts to sign a big-name striker during the winter break failed.
Schalke is chasing its first title since 1958, but the club rarely talks about its prospects after a turbulent first half. Infighting among players made headlines and coach Mirko Slomka was nearly fired.
But a defense that allowed just 17 goals in 17 matches kept Schalke in the title hunt. Now, the club is hoping the return of players like playmaker Lincoln and Germany midfielder Gerald Asamoah will ignite its attack.
Two top coaches will probably need a strong second half to save their jobs _ Hamburg's Thomas Doll and Borussia Moenchengladbach's Jupp Heynckes. Their clubs expected to earn European berths, but are instead stuck in the relegation zone.
In other matches this weekend, it is: Bielefeld vs. Hamburger SV; Frankfurt vs. Schalke; Nuremberg vs. Stuttgart; Cottbus vs. Moenchengladbach; Bochum vs. Mainz 05; Berlin vs. Wolfsburg; and Aachen vs. Leverkusen.


Updated : 2021-03-08 18:34 GMT+08:00