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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dortmund, Munich Teams to Beat in Second Half

BONN -- Defending champion Borussia Dortmund and storied Bayern Munich resume what looks like a two-horse race for the German Bundesliga title this weekend after a turbulent two-month winter break filled with transfer speculation.


Bayern conceded a big advantage to its rival when, after winning a record-breaking seven straight matches from the start of the season, it faltered badly to be overhauled by Dortmund.


But Munich's managerial staff have been working hard to regain the psychological initiative, making ill-concealed overtures to Dortmund's international libero Matthias Sammer, under contract until 1999, and ex-Bayern defender Stefan Reuter.


Dortmund has not been the only team to feel the power of Munich's checkbook, as the southern giant inquired about Borussia Moenchengladbach's Swedish striker Martin Dahlin and Karlsruhe's international midfielder Thomas Haessler.


"It's clear that Bayern always need reinforcements," coach Otto Rehhagel said.


But Dortmund trainer Ottmar Hitzfeld read the riot act to Sammer during a winter training camp in Brazil, with the result that the player who could command a German record fee of $27 million or more has stopped his public flirting with Munich.


"We have only once diminished our team by getting rid of a player, with [Bayern's] Thomas Helmer, and it's not going to happen again," Hitzfeld said.


Dortmund can at last welcome back its Swiss international striker Stephane Chapuisat, a former Bundesliga top scorer, after almost a year out with a knee injury.


And it has boosted its midfield by snapping up Freiburg's Joerg Heinrich during the break.


At Bayern, all eyes are on Lothar Matthaeus, the veteran libero whose return to the side in November after 10 months out with a ruptured Achilles tendon suddenly restored his side's dynamism and confidence.


Matthaeus is determined to play his way back into the national side for June's European Championship finals in England, but has been told by national coach Berti Vogts that he must prove his fitness week in, week out.


Dortmund, with 40 points and Bayern, with 38, look to have no other rivals for the title. But one team which could still put the cat among the pigeons is 1991 champion VfB Stuttgart, 10 points behind Bayern.


Dortmund's Brazilian striker Giovane Elber has hit form in his second season with the club, thriving on his partnership with Bulgarian international playmaker Krasimir Balakov.


The 34 clubs in the first and second divisions have concluded a "gentlemen's agreement'' to voluntarily keep the three foreign players limit until the end of the season, as a way around a European Court of Justice ruling that abolished league rules limiting movement for players who are European Union nationals.


Whether the agreement will hold is an open question. Bayern Munich chairman Franz Beckenbauer has said the teams should have accepted the court's ruling and immediately abolished limits on players from EU countries.


(For schedule, see Scorecard.)