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No seasonal gifts for Stuttgart, coach warns

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No seasonal gifts for Stuttgart, coach warns

Postby FCBayernNews » Fri Dec 12, 2008 6:15 pm

The last act in the battle for top spot in the Bundesliga at the midpoint of the season sees Bayern boss Jürgen Klinsmann make an emotional return to his personal and footballing roots.

A victory on Saturday (Live in English from 3.15 pm CET on Web Radio) away to VfB Stuttgart, the club where local boy Klinsmann spent his formative years, would ensure the champions spend the seven-week winter break level on points at least with leaders Hoffenheim, who entertain Schalke 04 on Sunday.

"We'll go to Stuttgart in confident mood, and as before, our aim is to win the autumn championship [first place halfway through the league programme]," commented Klinsmann, pointing to his side's run of 15 consecutive matches without defeat in all competitions. The 44-year-old would like to see that series extended in the final match of the calendar year: "We simply want to keep going the way we have been doing."

The VfB v FCB clash, traditionally regarded as a duel for supremacy in south Germany, has an added edge this year in that Stuttgart could extend a major helping hand to Hoffenheim, located just 90 kilometres north of the Swabian metropolis, as the promoted club strive to maintain top spot for themselves. "I don't think Stuttgart ever have problems with motivation when Bayern come to town," acknowledged Klinsmann, "it's the biggest game of the season for VfB, they'll be determined to succeed."

Caretaker boss Markus Babbel has guided Stuttgart to consecutive victories since taking the helm two weeks ago, "and they're aiming to claw back lost ground in the table," warned Klinsmann, "so we should be wary. We'll be focused, and we'll attempt to impose our authority on the game."

Ribéry sidelined

Klinsmann is without his best player of recent weeks, after Franck Ribéry was withdrawn from Saturday's squad with a shoulder injury sustained in the midweek Champions League trip to Lyon. Lukas Podolski has finally shaken off a back problem but is not yet fit to play. "He has to do some catching up in training," Klinsmann advised. The same applies to Christian Lell, who suffered gastroenteritis during the week.

However, Klinsmann has options compared to the Lyon match with the return of Zé Roberto and Lucio. Hamit Altintop, who celebrated a comeback from a four-month lay-off with a brief substitute appearance against the French champions, could be in line for a start against VfB, with Toni Kroos and Tim Borowski also standing by for the left side of midfield. "We have excellent alternatives," Klinsmann said.

Festive spirit set to one side

The coach warned his men to expect "lots and lots of hard work" in the final clash of the year, which the former Germany boss admits has special significance for him. "It's not just any old game when you go home. I grew up in Stuttgart, my family still live locally, and I have lots of ties there." However, the much-travelled old boy is not returning in gift-giving mood. "You focus on your priorities, and that means taking three points with Bayern."
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