Bay­ern ea­ger to end year on a high

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

DE­FEND­ING cham­pi­ons Bayer n Mu­nich face strug­glers Stuttgart to­day hop­ing to end their 2010 Bun­desliga cam­paign on a high, but with one eye on next year as Ar­jen Robben re­turns to train­ing.

Bay­ern are sixth in the ta­ble and lag 17 points be­hind lead­ers Dort­mund, but are set to wel­come back in­jured stars Robben, Ger­many vet­eran Miroslav Klose and striker Ivica Olic af­ter the Christ­mas break.

The Bun­desliga fin­ishes for the year to­mor­row evening with Bay­ern’s game and coach Louis van Gaal wants three points from Stuttgart to close the gap.

With chief play­maker Robben due back in Jan­uary, the cham­pi­ons are ex­pected to launch a ti­tle surge next year.

The fly­ing Dutch­man has been out since the World Cup with a tor n ham­string, but re­sumed train­ing on Thurs­day and said he is look­ing for­ward to his an­tic­i­pated Bun­desliga re­turn against Wolfs­burg on Jan­uary 15.

“I’m part of the team again,” the Dutch ace en­thused af­ter his first ses­sion back with the squad.

“I’ve worked to­wards this for a long time, be­ing back on the pitch with the lads is an in­de­scrib­able feel­ing.

“I’m not 100 per­cent fit yet, I still have a lot of work ahead of me.”

Af­ter see­ing Stuttgart win 5-1 in Europa League ac­tion on Thurs­day night against Dan­ish club Odense, coach Bruno Lab­ba­dia faces Bay­ern in his first league game in charge since tak­ing over from Jens Keller, who was sacked last week­end.

Al­though coach Jur­gen Klopp re­fuses to talk about Dort­mund win­ning their first Bun­desliga ti­tle since 2002, his young side are 11 points clear of sec­ond-placed Lev­erkusen.

They wrap up the first half of the sea­son against Frank­furt and face ru­mours Ger­many de­fender Mats Hum­mels is be­ing courted by Bay­ern with a view to a trans­fer over in the Jan­uary break.

Fourth-placed Mainz are at Ham­burg-based St Pauli with coach Thomas Tuchel des­per­ate to avoid a third-straight de­feat.

Mid-ta­ble Bre­men are home to Kais­er­slautern with 34-yearold cap­tain Torsten Frings ad­mit­ting he is con­sid­er­ing re­tir­ing at the end of the sea­son when his con­tract ex­pires.

Bre­men are with­out striker Hugo Almeida, who is sus- pended for a red card, while exChelsea star Clau­dio Pizarro is ex­pected to play.

Hof­fen­heim are at Wolfs­burg with both sides fac­ing spec­u­la­tion in­volv­ing Bay­ern.

While Mu­nich cap­tain Mark van Bom­mel has been linked to a Jan­uary switch to Wolfs­burg, Hof­fen­heim de­fen­sive mid­fielder Luiz Gus­tavo is re­ported to be a tar­get to re­place the Dutch­man in Bay­ern.

Hof­fen­heim are with­out mid­fielder Tobias Weis who has a thigh in­jury.

Af­ter their ter­ri­ble start to the sea­son which saw them lose their first four games, Schalke 04 are up to mid-ta­ble and chas­ing their third-straight win ‘when they play Cologne.

Coach Felix Ma­gath has re­acted calmly to the lat­est ru­mours about goal­keeper Manuel Neuer be­ing set to join Bay­ern in 2012.

“Spec­u­la­tion in the pa­pers doesn’t in­ter­est me. I am only concerned with some­thing if it is put to me di­rectly,” he said.

Cologne are with­out for­ward Milivoje No­vakovic who has a thigh in­jury.

Lev­erkusen are at home to fifth-placed Freiburg to­mor­row and will be with­out Ger­many goal­keeper Rene Adler, who has a knee in­jury. – Sapa-AFP

Ar­jen Robben

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