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Hitzfeld: Third place remains our target

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Hitzfeld: Third place remains our target

Postby FCBayernNews » Sun Apr 01, 2007 6:45 pm


On the face of it, Bayern currently face the conundrum of moving forwards in order to stand still. "The biggest problem of the day is that unfortunately, we've not closed the gap on third place," general manager Uli Hoeneß reflected after Saturday's deserved 2-0 win against leaders Schalke 04. Bayern have been marooned in the Bundesliga's unloved fourth spot, outside the Champions League qualifying places, since matchday 19. Hoeneß even went so far as to describe VfB Stuttgart's home win over Aachen as "a tragedy."

<b>Van Bommel: rivals considers us a threat</b>

Bayern remain two points off third-placed VfB, but have closed to within four of Werder Bremen and six of Schalke. However, a strict gag applied to anyone in the Bayern camp on Saturday daring to suggest the holders might be back in the title race. "We're concentrating 100 percent on a Champions League place. We're not there yet, and before we are, there will be no talk of anything else," coach Ottmar Hitzfeld insisted.

Mark van Bommel, yet again one of Munich's best players on the day, more or less toed the party line. "We're not talking about the title. Other people are doing it for us. We're six, four and two points behind our rivals, but everyone considers us a threat," the midfielder remarked with a grin.

<b>Toothless Royal Blues</b>

Van Bommel and company warmed up nicely for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg away to AC Milan with a commanding performance against the timid visitors from Gelsenkirchen. The champions played the better football and also won the physical battle, although Roy Makaay's opener after just 170 seconds made the job considerably easier. "We were very confident after that," Hitzfeld observed.

Indeed, the Reds dominated the Royal Blues throughout, apart from a spell shortly before half-time when the home team inexplicably eased back, "which wasn't necessary," Hitzfeld criticised. "We've prevented the leaders having a single decent chance for the full 90 minutes," Makaay pointed out. "We were very solid in defence," the head coach added.

<b>Keeper Neuer in blinding form</b>

Hasan Salihamidzic doubled the advantage on 78 minutes, and Bayern might even have won by more were it not for an excellent display from youthful Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer. "He was phenomenal," the normally acerbic Hoeneß declared, "Schalke will be grateful enough at only losing by two goals. It could have been four or five."

A higher margin of victory might have been no bad thing given the top teams' goal differences, where Bayern (+10) lag Stuttgart (+14), Bremen (+28) and Schalke (+15). "In practice, Bremen are five points clear of us because of their superior goal difference," Hoeneß acknowledged. "I believe we have a very small chance of the title. I don't think Schalke will throw it away now. Our target remains third place."
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