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Germany

Hertha Hit the Heights, Bayern Shake the Blues in Bundesliga Title Hunt

Hertha Berlin have moved closer to realizing club manager Dieter Hoeness's dream of parading the Bundesliga trophy through Brandenburg Gate. But lacklustre Bayern are suddenly back in the game too.

Andrey Voronin after scoring a goal

Hertha has Andrey Voronin to thank for its success

A hat-trick by on-loan striker Andrey Voronin in a 3-1 win at Energie Cottbus on Saturday has put the Berlin club four points clear at the top with 11 matches remaining.

Yet Hoeness and Hertha are doing their best not to raise hopes in the German capital of a first title win for 78 years, decades before the Bundesliga began in 1963.

Hertha are "a serious candidate for an international place," Hoeness conceded, meaning a top-five position and qualification for the UEFA Cup, which next season becomes the Europa Cup.

"We are seven points away from sixth place. I don't want to be a prophet of doom but things can go wrong quickly," he said.

Hertha's Swiss coach Lucien Favre is also refusing to get carried away by the club's best Bundesliga season to date.

"There is no reason to change our target of qualifying for the UEFA Cup. We have won 3-1 but it could quite easily have been the other way round," he said.

Voronin's the man

Friedrich and Voroning celebrating another goal

Will Hertha manage to keep Voronin?

Hertha can again thank on-form Voronin, who has now scored seven goals in his last five games. The Ukrainian, on loan from Liverpool, would like to make his move from the Mersey to the Spree a permanent one, but Hertha could be facing competition for the striker.

"That danger is there but it doesn't change our economic situation," Hoeness said. "If we were Manchester City we wouldn't wait (on signing Voronin). Andrey is doing everything right at the moment, the way he distributes the ball, helps relieve the team and scores. He's worth his weight in gold."

While Hertha remain coy on their title chances, Bayern Munich are back in business after a 5-1 thrashing of Hanover. After one win in five league games and a cup defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, the air was beginning to get thin for coach Juergen Klinsmann.

Munich smiling again

Juergen Klinsmann and Uli Hoeness sitting on the bench during soccer match

Uli Hoeness, left, and Juergen Klinsmann still hope to win the title

But there were smiles all round again in Munich after Bayern - -without suspended captain Mark van Bommel and the injured Franck Ribery, Luca Toni and Tim Borowski -- recovered from the shock of conceding a goal to run out comfortable winners.

Unlike Dieter Hoeness, older brother Uli -- Bayern's general manager -- does not hesitate in talking about the championship.

"It's now important that we steadily work our way up," he said.

The all-time record champions and title-holders are now joint second with Hoffenheim, level also on points with Wolfsburg and SV Hamburg.

"Our goal is to win the league, and we won't let up now," Klinsmann said. "Hertha have pulled away at the top, and we need to reel them in. We'll redouble our efforts in that respect. There are 11 games to go, and I reckon we have every chance of winning the league."

Hoffenheim lose steam

Spectators wave flags of 1899 Hoffenheim during a match

Hoffenheim fans must be disappointed with the team's recent record

Promoted Hoffenheim are meanwhile going off the boil with only one win in eight games, while Hamburg's 4-1 defeat at lowly Borussia Moenchengladbach underscored a lack of consistency away from home.

Wolfsburg have meanwhile crept up among the leaders after their 1-0 defeat of Karlsruhe was their fifth win in a row in the league.

Yet coach Felix Magath, who won the league and cup double in successive seasons with Bayern, does not see his side as a serious challenger.

"The title is not my aim. If we finish among the top five we've had a very good season," he said.

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