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9.22.2005

Hamburg wants to stop Bayern's Record

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Bayern Munich's record of 15 straight Bundesliga wins may get its toughest test yet Saturday when the league leader and defending champion at second-place Hamburg SV.

Hamburg's players are on a high after beating Stuttgart 2-1 on Wednesday. The win kept the northern team unbeaten in 16 matches this season, including Intertoto and German Cup games, and set up the showdown with Bayern, which is four points ahead in the table.

"We're developing great," said coach Thomas Doll. "It's just wonderful to see how the players believed in themselves to the last minute."

Hamburg's players may even feel luck is on their side after a wild deflection gave David Jarolim an 87th-minute deflected goal against Stuttgart.

"That ball looked like a wild bird - that was luck," Stuttgart's Andreas Henkel said.

However, Bayern's Michael Ballack will return from an ankle injury. Although Bayern had three straight 1-0 wins without their captain, with him, the champion thrashed its first four Bundesliga opponents by a combined score of 13-3.

"Whatever the media and the fans make out of the Bayern match, for us it is the same as if we played Frankfurt," Hamburg forward Sergei Barbarez said. "You can't say how good we are after just six rounds."

Many in Germany would like to see a rival emerge for Bayern to avoid a title runaway. On Thursday, a brewery offered 10,000 liters of free beer to the fans of which ever team first beats the frontrunners.

"That's nonsense, I don't think we're threatened with a boring season," Bayern coach Felix Magath said. "It's long and it will get tough for us."

Bayern could match its own record, accomplished twice, with a seventh straight win to open the season.

Magath should remember Hamburg's last title in 1982-83. He was the team's star.

Third-placed Bremen, already five points behind the Bayern, will face a tough match Saturday against fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen. Stuttgart will try to rebound the next day against Kaiserslautern as pressure mounts on coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

Stuttgart's management said its sad the euphoria generated in the city by signing one of the world's most successful coaches has dissipated with a 1-3-2 record and 12th place.

The 66-year-old Italian defended himself against charges he isn't the right man to lead the German team.

"We fit together, but there's always difficulties," he told Kicker magazine. "But you also have to realize, a man and woman love each other, but can still separate."

In other matches, it's: Duisburg vs Nuremberg, Schalke vs. Hannover 96, Wolfsburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz 05 vs. Dortmund, Bielefeld vs. Moenchengladbach, and Cologne vs. Hertha Berlin.