Bayern Munich seek to prove their Bundesliga credentials beginning 2010 with victory over Hoffenheim

Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim, Bundesliga, January 15, 2010

Bayern Munich 1/2; Draw 7/2; Hoffenheim 7/1

The German Bundesliga kick-starts back into life on Friday night with Bayern Munich (5/6 to win the league) entertaining Hoffenheim after the winter break. Bayer Levekusen (5/1 to win the league), who welcome Mainz on Saturday, finished 2009 as the so-called “Winter Champions,” however the top of the table could barely be any tighter with the top five teams separated by just five points.

As 2010 ticked over Bayern held third place in the league, with many believing that the Munich giants will be the team to beat in the second half of the season. By contrast, a year appears to have been a long time for Hoffenheim, who this time time last year had the Bundesliga in a frenzy as they held top spot on New Year’s day 2009, and now find themselves off the pace in seventh spot. (11/8 to be under 2.5 goals, 8/11 to be over.)

That Bayern are now widely tipped to be the front-runner in race for the German title fails to pay lip-service to the Bavarians rocky start to the season. Coach Louis van Gaal had a disappointing start to his Munich reign as his team struggled to find their feet in the opening months of the new season. So bad were Bayern, in fact, that Van Gaal’s imminent sacking was touted in the German press as recently as November.

But midway through November Bayern managed to turn the corner, rattling off six consecutive wins, including a terrific 4-1 victory at Juventus in the Champions League, to close out the first half of the season as the side to beat.

On the field, Bayern start the year with injury doubts to star players Franck Ribery (out) and Arjen Robben (50-50), while up front they are a man lighter having sold troublesome Luca Toni to Roma.

Van Gaal, then, will have virtually a full squad to pick from against the Village team. Ivica Olic, Mario Goma and Miroslav Klose could all feature in the attack during the 90 minutes, while further back in midfield expectation will be high that 20-year-old Thomas Muller can continue his superb form which saw him claim five goals in the first 17 games of the season. (Hoffenheim are 15/2 to keep a clean sheet, 1/9 against.)

Hoffenheim have their fair share of absentees ahead of their trip to Munich, starting with missing duo Chinedu Obasi and Isaac Vorsah who are on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.

Further, winger Carlos Eduardo looks certain to miss out of the first match of 2010 after picking up a knee injury during the Christmas break, while Tobias Weis, Matthias Jaissle and Prince Tagoe are also still missing with injuries and Luiz Gustavo is suspended.

In their absence much will be expected from the attacking triumvirate of Vedad Ibisevic, Demba Ba and Sejad Salihovic in the visitors attack – the threesome having scored 12 of the 27 goals scored by the Village Team in the first half of the year.

101predicts: Bayern Munich 2 – Hoffenheim 0 (8/1)

Bayern Munich 1/2; Draw 7/2; Hoffenheim 7/1

Full match odds here.