Bayern Munich travels to Wolfsburg in Bundesliga

NESHA STARCEVIC AP Sports Writer Published:

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Ever since its sensational run to the Bundesliga title in 2009, Wolfsburg has been trying to establish itself as one of the teams that perennially makes one of the European competitions.

Instead of competing in the Champions League or the Europa League, however, Wolfsburg usually has ended trying to avoid relegation.

Financially supported by Volkswagen, Europe's biggest automaker, Wolfsburg has gone through scores of players and half a dozen coaches since 2009 seeking that elusive success, to no avail, despite millions spent. Former England manager Steve McClaren lasted half a year.

This season was no different. Wolfsburg's proclaimed goal of qualifying for Europe quickly turned into another season to forget. The club fired coach Felix Magath, who had been brought back in an attempt to repeat his coaching success from 2009.

Wolfsburg lured Klaus Allofs from Werder Bremen to become its manager and he in turn persuaded Dieter Hecking to leave Nuremberg and sign on as coach. Hecking has the reputation of being a solid, long-term coach.

The team has slowly climbed up to 12th and will try to slow Bayern Munich's seemingly inevitable progress to the title when they face off on Friday.

According to a recent report in the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Wolfsburg has the second biggest annual salary bill in the Bundesliga after Bayern. Brazilian midfielder Diego -- once chased away by Magath for refusing to be a substitute, only to be accepted back by the coach -- reportedly earns €8.2 million ($11 million) a year. That's more than Javier Garcia Sanz makes in his capacity as a board member of Volkswagen in charge of procurement and who runs the football club enterprise.

Another media report said Volkswagen spent €67.5 million ($91 million) on the club just in the year after it won the championship. Under Magath, the squad grew to nearly 40 players -- and had little to show for it.

Wolfsburg's last victory against Bayern was 5-1 in the championship season. Bayern has won six of seven matches since then. Wolfsburg has the third-worst home record this season, with 10 points from 10 games, while Bayern has conceded only one goal away from home.

Bayern has conceded only seven goals in 21 matches, while scoring 55. It leads defending champion Borussia Dortmund by 15 points, the biggest lead at this stage in league history.

"We are motivated to march on," coach Jupp Heynckes said on Thursday.

The only goal Bayern conceded away, incidentally, was in a 1-1 draw in Nuremberg, where Hecking was still the coach.

"We know that we have to do a lot of things right to have a chance against Bayern," Hecking said. "They are simply a fantastic team. If you let them play, you have no chance."

Bayern will be without Javi Martinez, the €40 million ($54 million) midfielder who has bruised toes. Backup striker Claudio Pizarro is out with a cold.

Dortmund will try to bounce back from a 4-1 loss at home to Hamburg when it hosts Eintracht Frankfurt, the surprise of the season. Frankfurt is sitting fourth after being promoted and is only two points behind Dortmund and one point behind Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen hosts Augsburg on Saturday. Also on are: Werder Bremen vs. Freiburg, Mainz vs. Schalke, Hamburg vs. Borussia Moenchengladbach and Fortuna Duesseldorf vs. Greuther Fuerth.

On Sunday, Nuremberg hosts Hannover and Stuttgart travels to Hoffenheim hoping to end a five-match losing streak.