Bayern face Hamburg in 'fight of wounded boxers'

BERLIN - Bayern Munich face Hamburg SV on Saturday with the clubs trying to carry on as normal despite knowing their managers will be leaving at the end of the season even if they salvage something from a poor year.

"This is a fight of two wounded boxers," said Hamburg coach Armin Veh, who threw in the towel this week the day after Bayern announced their boss Louis van Gaal was leaving a year before his contract runs out.

Bayern, who endured a "catastrophic" eight days as last season's domestic double winners were eliminated from the German Cup and out of contention for the Bundesliga title, are still chasing a second-place finish and Champions League berth.

Their players are adamant that Van Gaal's authority has not been undermined as the fifth-placed side seek to make up ground on second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who are seven points ahead.

"We will continue as always and for us absolutely nothing has changed," said goalkeeper Thomas Kraft after the first training session on Wednesday following the announcement of Van Gaal's departure.

"He explained the situation to us and he was as he always is. His authority has not been undermined. We all have our aim which is to play in the Champions League next season. So the team will deal with it."

Dutchman Van Gaal, who looked relaxed and joked with his players during training, will have a full squad to chose from as Bayern seek to end a three-game losing streak in all competitions, their worst run since 2000.

"Champions League is our goal. That is what we want and that is where Bayern belongs," said captain Philipp Lahm. "The team has been challenged and each and every player now has a specific responsibility."

Saturday's opponents can empathise with Bayern's situation after Veh declined to take up a one-year option in his contract because of the club's internal problems.

A string of bad transfers have also contributed to sending Hamburg to seventh place, 24 points off the top and five points off a Europa League spot.

Leaders Borussia Dortmund, 12 points clear at the top, travel to Hoffenheim on their seemingly unstoppable march to their first league title since 2002 with Leverkusen, second on 49 points, taking on Mainz 05, in fourth place.