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Klinsmann Insists Much-Improved Bayern Can Challenge for Titles

Bayern Munich have steadily improved since the start of the season and can play a major role in Germany and Europe if they can keep up the momentum, coach Juergen Klinsmann said.

Bayern Munich coach Juergen Klinsmann

Klinsmann is enjoying more good times than bad as the season progresses

"If we play consistently from the first match onwards then we will become German champions and will go a long way in the Champions League," Klinsmann said in an interview with the German soccer federation (DFB) website published on Monday.

"If every player gives it all he has and contributes to the team we will win a title or two. The team plays faster and more attractive football (than last season) and we believe that it can do even better. The buildup gives us reason for hope."

Title holders Bayern are tied on points with league leaders Hoffenheim as the second half of the season opens this week.

Munich visit VfB Stuttgart for a German cup tie on Tuesday and open Bundesliga action on Friday night at third-placed SV Hamburg.

Their next Champions League date is a knock-out round tie in February with Portugal's Sporting Lisbon, with the club seeking to recapture Europe's top prize it last won in 2001.

Klinsmann said he didn't mind such tough domestic tests after the seven-week hibernation period.

"Of course things could be easier but such games are a good indicator because we will know where we stand. I am convinced that we can have a successful start if all players are fit."

Munich had a stuttering start into the season but improved in the final weeks before the winter break.

Klinsmann confident despite Podolski departure

Franck Ribery

Ribery has been an inspiration since joining Bayern

Looking at the team led by French star Franck Ribery, Klinsmann expressed his disappointment with Germany forward Lukas Podolski who returns to Cologne in summer after never being able to challenge first-choice players Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose.

"It's a fact that Lukas couldn't deal with the situation in Munich of being the forward number three," said Klinsmann, who nonetheless expressed his hope that Podolski will regain his form in Cologne.

The former Germany coach Klinsmann recharged his batteries during a two-week family holiday in California as he admitted his first months as club coach had been very demanding.

"It was very intense. The life of a club coach is very different to that of a national team coach. But I can say after half a year that my decision to go to Munich was the right one," he said.

It could be worse. Klinsmann could be coach at Werder Bremen. After starting the season in barn-storming form, the northern German team have slipped down to eighth in the league, embroiled in scandals and arguments involving former squeaky-clean star Diego. They now face a lawsuit by former player Ivan Klasnic.

Legal action over kidneys

Klasnic is to sue two doctors at Bremen over his treatment for kidney problems that eventually led to two organ transplants, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported Monday.

Ivan Klasnic

Former Bremen favorite Klasnic is suing the club

The striker, who joined French side Nantes this season, underwent two kidney transplant operations in early 2007 while still at Bremen and accuses the club's doctors of negligent treatment and medical mistakes. The doctors reject the allegations.

According to the report, made available ahead of publication, attempts in the previous nine months to reach an out-of-court settlement have failed.

The 28-year-old forward is now looking for two million euros ($2.6 million) in compensation with the case due to be heard in a Bremen court on April 17.

Croatian international Klasnic scored 49 league goals for Bremen between 2001 and 2007 for Bremen as well as netting 20 times in the Champions League.

Diego gets club backing

Meanwhile Bremen seem to be maintaining their patience with unsettled Brazilian Diego.

This season the modest 23-year-old playmaker has been finding himself increasingly in the headlines for reasons which have often had little to do with his prowess on the field.

Diego at Bremen Airport before leaving for the Beijing Olympics

Diego ran out on Bremen for the Beijing Olympics

Right at the beginning of the season Diego ruffled a few Bremen feathers by insisting on playing for Brazil at the Olympics in Beijing, much against the will of the club who wanted him back for the Bundesliga start.

There then followed some late training appearances and a loss of control on the pitch in December when he grabbed a Karlsruhe player around the neck -- an act which earned him a hefty club fine and sees him banned for four matches up to February 21.

Much has also been made in the German tabloid press of an alleged affair with pop singer Sarah Connor, although the player says the two are "just good friends."

Then last week began with headlines of a police car chase, with Diego made to take a breathalyser test in Bremen.

Brazilian faces ban

Bremen sports director Klaus Allofs says the incident should not be blown out of proportion.

"Diego is sorry. He knows that he committed an offense and will have to live with the consequences that the test brings with it. I don't know if he will receive a driving ban or a fine," he said.

Diego in training

Diego's new wayward image comes with a ruffled look

Diego said he had to take a breath test, but denied reports of a car chase or that he drove through a red light. "I came to a police control stop where I followed the orders of the authorities. I was a bit shocked that there were three cars with blue lights flashing. But the policemen were very nice to me," he said.

German media reports said Diego was over the legal alcohol limit of 50 milligrams of alcohol per liter of blood and could lose his driving license for a month, although Diego insists he was not intoxicated, but had just had some wine.

Allofs said: "He made a mistake in a part of his private life from which he will learn. We were not pleased about the headlines and we discouraged his behavior. But that has nothing to do with the debate about discipline within the team.

Allofs says the recent negative headlines were also to do with the increased media attention in Bremen, especially since Diego's liaison with Sarah Connor has put him in the paparazzi's focus.

"Nevertheless, our players naturally have a function as a role model," he said. "And fundamentally, this should apply to everyone, even for Diego: stay away from driving after enjoying alcohol."

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