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Friday, September 23, 2005 

Hamburg - Bayern (Preview)

Twenty-two years ago, a skilful midfielder called Felix Magath secured Hamburger SV their greatest success with a goal in the European Champion Clubs' Cup final against Juventus FC. On Saturday, he will be looking to spike his old side's impressive run in his current role as FC Bayern München coach.

Historic giants
As the 52-year-old Magath knows only too well, the match between Hamburg and Bayern is a meeting of two major players in German football. Back in the 1980s, Hamburg were a pre-eminent force in the Bundesliga, but in recent times it has been Bayern who have led the way.

Surprise contenders
Indeed, few expected Hamburg, second in the table, to be Bayern's strongest challengers this season. But while Bayern's record of 15 successive Bundesliga wins is awesome, Thomas Doll's team have an impressive statistic of their own - they are unbeaten in 16 games.

Sell-out game
Hardly surprising, then, that this weekend's tie has generated intense excitement. Hamburg general manager Dietmar Beiersdorfer told uefa.com: "Our stadium will be sold out and I hope we can win. We are very proud to play host to Bayern as the second-best side in the country."

Inspirational midfielder
Rafael van der Vaart's summer arrival at the AOL Arena from AFC Ajax has proved to be the making of Hamburg. Seen by many as a worthy successor to Magath or Kevin Keegan in midfield, the Dutchman's class has imbued the team with confidence.

Ones to watch
"The rest of the league are watching us," said Hamburg chairman Bernd Hoffmann. "We are the ones who can bring the excitement back to German football. We beat [VfB] Stuttgart on the road, so why shouldn't we be strong enough to win against Bayern as well?"

Long-term aims
Although Bayern are four points above Hamburg, that is not enough of a gap for Bosnia-Herzegovnian international Hasan Salihamidžić, who moved to Munich from the northern port. "This match is very important for us to stay top in the long term," he said.

'The only champions'
"We want to prove on Saturday that we are No1," said Magath, who should have Michael Ballack back from injury. "It would be wonderful for me if Hamburg were to be a top team again. But this season we will show that the only champions can be Bayern."

Source: Uefa.com

Best regards from NY!
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