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Bayern Rivals Throw in Championship Towel

Scrambling for the two Champions League spots behind Bayern now appears the height of ambition for the other leading German clubs. They seem resigned to watching Munich pick up the championship again in May 2006.

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When not nursing injuries, Michael Ballack is key to Bayern's success

There are 14 games gone in the Bundesliga season, and Bayern Munich are ominously looking down on the other 17 teams -- again. Their chief adversaries appear to have lost all hope of catching the reigning champions.

Bayern notched their 12th win in 14 matches, a best ever Bundesliga start, with a 2-1 victory over Mainz 05 last week and now have a six-point cushion at the summit following Werder Bremen's 2-1 defeat to Schalke 04.

"It is all about us, we do not need any help at the moment," explained Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness. "We are looking to go on from here, not look what is going on behind us."

Adversaries mai n tai n Europea n ambitio n s

Bundesliga 11. Spieltag Hamburger SV gegen FC Schalke 04

Hamburg have slipped, but are still Bayern's main opposition

SV Hamburg also won last week against Bayer Leverkusen to move second and stay within six points of Bayern, but their manager Thomas Doll is not thinking about a title shot.

"We just want to qualify for European competition," Doll said. "Even though we are second, Bayern are in a different league."

Hamburg are the only team to defeat Bayern in the league this season with a 2-0 win at the AOL Arena. Despite Doll's claims, Munich coach Felix Magath believes they are the main danger.

"Three weeks ago I said Hamburg were a bigger rival than Bremen," Magath said. "People have been waiting for Hamburg to fall apart and they haven't."

Breme n resig n ed to playi n g catch-up

Bremen's defeat at Schalke saw them fall eight points behind the leaders and the 2004 champions are losing hope.

Fußball Bundesliga Werder Bremen gegen Borussia Dortmund

Bremen duo Klasnic and Klose, front, are watching Munich's grasp on the title tighten

"It will be difficult because Bayern are playing so consistently," said Bremen captain Frank Baumann. "At the moment it looks like they are going to march to the title."

Bremen surprised everyone by winning the 2004 title ahead of Bayern, but two seasons ago Bremen were at the front -- this time they're playing catch up.

The Bavarians, record 19-time German champions, thrive on being at the top and tend to power on. Last season was a perfect example.

Schalke slippi n g from seco n d last seaso n

Magath's team took 14 games to reach the Bundesliga zenith and slipped from top spot for just one week as they finished 14 points clear of Schalke 04.

Schalke, who have suffered being Bayern's runner-up on a number of occasions, kept pace with Munich until April last season but are a full 12 points behind in this campaign.

Champions League Pokal und UEFA Pokal

Hamburg and Schalke can still play for next year's UEFA cup, right, and Champions League cup

"What Bayern are doing does not concern me," said Schalke general manager Rudi Assauer.

Like Hamburg, Schalke are more interested in decorating their trophy case with the lucrative European titles than the German championship.

"Our aim is not to win the title but to qualify for the Champions League," Assauer added. "We achieved that last season, and that is what we want to do this time around."

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