Bayern reappoint Hitzfeld after sacking Magath

January 31, 2007

BERLIN, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich sacked coach Felix Magath and replaced him with former boss Ottmar Hitzfeld in a shock move on Wednesday.

The coaching change came the day after a goalless draw at home to relegation candidates Bochum left Bayern down in fourth place, in danger of slipping eight points off the title pace.

'We had to react due to concern over a Champions League place for next season,' Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement.

Only the top three finishers in the Bundesliga can go through to the Champions League.

Hitzfeld, who has been appointed until the end of the season, coached Bayern from 1998 until 2004.

During that time he led Bayern to the Champions League in 2001 as well as four Bundesliga titles and two German Cups. Hitzfeld also won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.

Magath replaced Hitzfeld in July 2004 and guided the club to league and cup doubles in each of his first two seasons in charge.

The loss of midfielder and Germany captain Michael Ballack to Chelsea at the end of last season proved difficult to recover from, though, and their form throughout the current campaign has been poor.

They finished the first half of the season in third place in the Bundesliga, three points behind Werder Bremen and Schalke 04.

They have managed just a point from their two matches since the restart, a 3-2 defeat at Borussia Dortmund followed by the draw against Bochum, which ended with the players being whistled from the field.

Those two results have left them in fourth place, and they will slip eight points off the pace if one or both of the co-leaders win their league matches on Wednesday night.

'We don't need to talk about the title any more,' Magath told reporters after the Bochum game. 'We have to make sure of getting second or third.'

Concerns over that crucial third place led to his downfall on Wednesday.

'Naturally it's not a nice situation,' Magath said in a statement released by the club. 'But I have had two-and-a-half successful years here and I'm very proud.'

Bayern are also out of the German Cup after losing to modest Alemannia Aachen in December.

They are still in with a chance of winning the European Cup - a competition they last won under Hitzfeld - with a second round Champions League tie to come against Real Madrid.

Bayern's next match is away to Bavarian rivals Nuremberg on Friday.