After FC Bayern München booked a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with an away-goals triumph over Real Madrid CF on Wednesday, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is hoping the Ottmar Hitzfeld factor can help reignite their Bundesliga campaign – starting against Werder Bremen today.
Hitzfeld experienced a couple of initial setbacks after replacing Felix Magath at the helm on 31 January but has overseen a recent upturn in fortunes at the Fußball Arena München. Twelve points adrift of the summit a fortnight ago, Bayern have capitalised on slips by FC Schalke 04, Bremen and VfB Stuttgart, halving the distance between themselves and top spot with back-to-back wins. The Madrid victory made it three, and Rummenigge attributes the improvement to one man, saying: "We have to be grateful to Ottmar Hitzfeld. He has done a tremendous job in the past few weeks and helped the team get back on their feet.
"You can see his work ethic, his diligence and ambition, and that has transferred to the players. It has given the team confidence, stability and security. Now we need to take one game at a time and see where we are at the end of the season." The match against a Bremen side who beat Bayern 3-1 earlier in the campaign could provide a strong indicator of where that will be. First in the table when Hitzfeld reclaimed the Bayern hot seat, Thomas Schaaf's team have taken just four points from their last five matches and sit second behind Schalke, just three points above their Munich-based rivals.
An Aaron Hunt hat-trick fired Bremen to a 3-0 success against VfL Bochum 1848 last weekend. Another victory against Bayern would bring them to within a point of first place following Schalke's disappointing draw against Hannover 96 yesterday. Mirko Slomka's side's aspirations of a first German title in 49 years have been dented by consecutive home defeats by Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Hamburger SV and this latest setback has rendered their lead yet more precarious.
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