Bayern sets low target for midseason
Bayern Munich's coach Louis van Gaal has set a target for his team before the Bundesliga goes into its winter break: 30 points.
That would not be enough to catch up with Borussia Dortmund even if the current Bundesliga leader fails to win a single point in the remaining four matches before the break, a very unlikely scenario.
The modest target shows how low Bayern has fallen in Van Gaal's second season and how far it is from defending the Bundesliga title.
Bayern is now 14 points behind Dortmund and 10 points away from the 30-point target before Saturday's match at home against Eintracht Frankfurt.
"Thirty points, that's not little," club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said this week, reminding "dear players" that they have to show more effort.
Bayern is coming off a 3-2 loss in the Champions League at AS Roma, after squandering a 2-0 lead. The defeat meant little, though, since Bayern had already advanced and clinched first place in the group event with the defeat.
"We can be relaxed and we can live with this defeat," Rummenigge said.
But the Kicker magazine on Thursday cited unnamed "insiders" as describing relations between van Gaal and the club's bosses as "totally broken down."
Van Gaal came under fierce criticism from club president Uli Hoeness a couple of weeks ago over the Dutchman's aloof attitude, a feud that was officially settled over a glass of wine.
Next, van Gaal irked the front office by suggesting top midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger should be sold if the club is unable to get him to sign a contract extension immediately.
The coach then blasted France star Franck Ribery for lack of commitment in a friendly game and in practice.
Ribery responded with a lackluster performance off the bench in the 1-1 draw last week at Bayer Leverkusen, then publicly complained about limited playing time after his ankle injury and a distant relationship with van Gaal.
Van Gaal than had a talk with his winger before the match in Rome and described it as "love at first sight."
The coach had a slow start last season as well and reportedly was close to getting sacked but a 4-1 victory at Juventus Turin in the Champions League served as a turning point and gave Bayern a vital boost. Bayern went on to sweep the domestic double and reach the final of the Champions League.
Bayern seems to be still in search of such inspiration this season though, and while some club officials have paid lip service to the undiminished ambition to win titles, others see it differently.
"Dortmund is another league, I have no idea how we are supposed to close this enormous gap. Maybe if there is an epidemic there (Dortmund)," Franz Beckenbauer said.
Beckenbauer is now only the honorary president of Bayern, but the legendary captain usually has a perfect feel for what's going on at the club.
He isn't alone. "We don't need to talk about the championship when we are so far behind," sporting director Christian Nerlinger said.
Bayern's only shining light has been striker Mario Gomez - long ignored by van Gaal - who has scored 14 goals in his last 10 games.
While Bayern appears close to self-destruction, Dortmund is set to extend the contract of coach Juergen Klopp until 2014, according to Kicker.
Dortmund next hosts neighboring Borussia Moenchengladbach, the bottom-place team, on Saturday.
Mainz, which is a surprising second, seven points behind Dortmund, kicks off the 14th round at home against Nuremberg on Friday.
Third-place Bayer Leverkusen travels to Hoffenheim and Hannover hosts Freiburg in matches involving teams in the top six.
In other games on Saturday, Hamburger SV hosts Stuttgart and Schalke travels to Kaiserslautern.
On Sunday, Werder Bremen plays St. Pauli and Cologne meets Wolfsburg.