BERLIN, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich swing back into Bundesliga action on Friday night (1930GMT) at Hansa Rostock knowing another false start could wreck their hopes of giving coach and captain a perfect send-off.
Ottmar Hitzfeld and Oliver Kahn will both leave the club at the end of the campaign and the Bayern target is to see them on their way with a treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Cup.
They returned from the six-week mid-season break to win 5-2 away to third division Wuppertal on Tuesday and book a place in the Cup quarter-finals.
So far so good. But the most important of the three titles is the Bundesliga and with the club leading second-placed Werder Bremen on goal difference only they cannot afford a repeat of last year's slapdash start to the New Year.
This time last season they took just a point from their first two games, sacked coach Felix Magath, brought Hitzfeld back to replace him and then suffered a 3-0 defeat at Nuremberg.
By that time they were out of the title race and they subsequently failed even to net a Champions League place.
Kahn, the 38-year-old keeper, was relieved to see the team come through a tougher than expected work-out against Wuppertal.
'We needed a game like that, played in full competitive conditions, ahead of the match against Rostock,' Kahn, who is in his 14th and final season with Bayern, told reporters.
Hitzfeld flatly rejected suggestions that he could coast through his final half-season as a club coach, before an expected move to take over at the Swiss national team.
'I want to relish every game, Hitzfeld told reporters. 'I'm fully motivated and I want to give everything right up until the final day. It would be a dream to win the treble.'
Bayern will be without striker Lukas Podolski because of injury but that will scarcely be a worry with Miroslav Klose scoring twice and Luca Toni once in the Wuppertal game.
Werder's task on Sunday at home to Bochum will be to keep up with Bayern in the league, while putting behind them the disappointing Cup defeat by Borussia Dortmund in midweek.
Coach Thomas Schaaf will once again have to plan without captain Torsten Frings because of injury.
Third-placed Hamburg SV, who are four points behind the leaders, are in action at home to Hanover 96 in one of six games on Saturday.
They had an easy 3-0 win over Rot-Weiss Essen in the Cup on Wednesday.
Champions VfB Stuttgart, who are in eighth place after a poor start to the defence of their title, are away to Schalke 04 on Sunday.
Schalke, in fifth place, were knocked out of the Cup by VfL Wolfsburg on Wednesday.