BERLIN, March 11, 2011 (AFP) - Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm says his team-mates must take responsibility for the three straight defeats that cost coach Louis van Gaal his job, ahead of Saturday's clash with Hamburg.
Van Gaal was told on Monday that his contract will be terminated in May, a year early, after his team suffered back-to-back league defeats and were dumped out of the German Cup at home to Schalke.
|Bayern Munich's coach Louis van Gaal signs autographs after a training session in Munich, southern Germany, on March 9, 2011. AFP|
Last Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Hanover left defending champions Bayern fifth in the league and a massive 19 points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund.
With the Bundesliga title out of their reach, Bayern must close the seven-point gap behind second-placed Bayer Leverkusen to be sure of a Champions League place next season.
Lahm says his star-studded team must take responsibility for their situation if they are to avoid a fourth straight defeat at home to Hamburg.
"We're gutted about the three defeats in a row," admitted Lahm, whose side host holders Inter Milan in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie on Tuesday.
"We'll do everything we possibly can to take the three points. It's up to us now. Every individual player has to take responsibility.
"Our sole priority now is qualifying for the Champions League. It's where we want to be and it's where Bayern belong."
Van Gaal will name a near full-strength team, the only confirmed absentees being Brazilian centre-back Breno (suspended) and long-term injury victim Ivica Olic.
Hamburg will be without injured Dutch defender Joris Mathijsen as the 30-year-old centre-back has a knee injury.
Germany defender Heiko Westermann will captain the team, who are also coming to terms with the news that they will soon be losing their coach.
Armin Veh will leave at the end of the season after just 10 months in charge, citing internal problems for his departure.
Hamburg are seventh and have won just two of their last six matches.
Runaway leaders Dortmund are set to be without hot-shot striker Lucas Barrios for Saturday's clash with Hoffenheim.
The 26-year-old Paraguay striker, Dortmund's top scorer with 11 goals in 24 games this season, has a calf problem and sat out training on Thursday.
Dortmund have a 12-point lead at the top of the table and are chasing their 20th win of the season from 26 league games.
Germany centre-back Mats Hummels is again doubtful after suffering from a trapped nerve.
Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen face a tough battle on Sunday when they host fourth-place Mainz.
Ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack will again sit the game out, having told coach Jupp Heynckes he is not prepared to be used from the bench as he continues to work his way back to fitness after a leg injury.
Heynckes, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has delayed any negotiations with the club until the international break at the end of the month. He has been linked to the soon-to-be vacant job at Bayern.
Having earned their place in the last eight of the Champions League by beating Valencia in mid-week, Schalke host Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday with the future of their coach Felix Magath in grave doubt.
The German media is rife with reports that Magath, who has won the Bundesliga with both Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, is set for an imminent departure.
Cologne v Hanover 96
Saturday (1430GMT unless otherwise stated):
Bayern Munich v Hamburg, Schalke 04 v Eintracht Frankfurt, VfL Wolfsburg v Nuremberg, Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund, Kaiserslautern v Freiburg, Werder Bremen v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1730GMT)
Mainz 05 v Bayer Leverkusen (1430GMT), St Pauli v VfB Stuttgart (1630GMT)