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Bayer Leverkusen eyes elusive title
by Paul Kennedy, December 22nd, 2009 7:01AM



[MID-SEASON REPORT] The Bundesliga's winter break came just in time as freezing temperatures spread across much of Germany. They did little to slow down leader Bayer Leverkusen, which is unbeaten at the halfway mark, and its teenage sensation Toni Kroos, or Bayern Munich, which has been on a tear in recent weeks. For a look at the Bundesliga at the winter break ...

TITLE RACE. Coached by old-hand Jupp Heynckes, Bayer Leverkusen has a one-point lead on Schalke 04 and a two-point lead on Bayern Munich at the break.

Can Bayer hold on for its first Bundesliga title? History says no. Late collapses in 2000 and 2002 cost Bayer titles. It also finished second on two other occasions. Still, Bayer has the league's best offense (35 goals in 17 games) and is tied with Schalke for the best defense (13 goals allowed).

Felix Magath left Wolfsburg after leading it to the 2009 Bundesliga, and he has Schalke right in the thick of the title race. Off the field, Schalke, one of Germany's most popular clubs, has been working to resolve its financial problems that will lessen the pressure to sell goalie Manuel Neuer, who has been targeted by Manchester United.

After a slow start under Dutchman Louis van Gaal, Bayern Munich is on a roll. Its 5-2 win over Hertha Berlin over the weekend gave it six wins and two ties in its last eight games. The fine form of strikers Mario Gomez and Ivica Olic has made Italian Luca Toni expendable. He could be gone by the end of the January transfer market.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, Dortmund is this year's outsider. It's unbeaten in its last 10 games and moved into fifth place, only five points off the lead.

RELEGATION BATTLE. Last-place Hertha Berlin has only six points in 17 games -- the second worst record in Bundesliga history. Nuremberg, which is 17th place, fired Coach Michael Oenning on Monday. He was the fifth coach to lose his job in the Bundesliga this season after Bochum's Marcel Koller, Hertha Berlin's Lucien Favre, Hannover's Dieter Hecking and Stuttgart's Markus Babbel.

REVELATION. Toni Kroos, 19, scored twice in Bayer Leverkusen's 3-2 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday to seal the fall championship. The playmaker is playing on loan from Bayern Munich and already has six goals and three assists. Franz Beckenbauer calls Kroos the next Michael Ballack.

AMERICANS. Three Americans have played in the Bundesliga. Steven Cherundolo has played 14 games for Hannover 96. Fellow U.S. national team player Michael Bradley was in the doghouse at Borussia Moenchengladbach early in the season, but he has played well recently to finish the fall campaign with two goals in 13 matches. Sal Zizzo made one appearance for Hannover 96 early in the season but was later injured, rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament during practice. The injury should keep him sidelined into the spring.

TRANSFER TALK. Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko could move on the January transfer market. Chelsea is the likely destination for the 23-year-old Bosnian coveted for his size and work rate. With Wolfsburg out of the Bundesliga race and eliminated from the Champions League, it will have a hard time turning down the $40 million Chelsea might shell out for Dzeko.

  1. Maroussia John
    commented on: March 12, 2010 at 2:55 a.m.
    It will be great to watch Bayern Munich, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.

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