New Bayern coach Jonker thrown in the deep end

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BERLIN (Reuters) -- Interim Bayern Munich coach Andries Jonker could not have wished for a more challenging start as the German champions battle to rescue a barren season with a Champions League spot for next season.

The 48-year-old Jonker, Louis van Gaal's assistant and his successor after he was sacked on Sunday following a draw at Nuremberg which relegated them to fourth in the league, must launch a five-game winning burst starting against second-placed Bayer Leverkusen on the weekend.

"On May 14 (when the season ends) we must be in third place," he told reporters on Monday in his first news conference as head coach.

"I do not need to teach players anything for five games, I don't need a philosophy. What I need to do together with the fans, the board, the coaching staff and the players is to clinch that Champions League qualification spot. If we all stick together we can do it."

In a twist of fate, Leverkusen, who could scupper Bayern's hopes of clinching a third place finish that would put them into Champions League qualification, are coached by Jupp Heynckes, already appointed as new Bayern coach for next season.

With next year's Champions League final to be staged in Munich at their own Allianz Arena, it would be a catastrophe for Bayern if they missed out on Europe's top club competition.


"I expect an explosion against Leverkusen. I expect that the players will finally get rid of that straitjacket they have been wearing in the past months," said club president Uli Hoeness.

Jonker, who said he had first cleared it with long-time associate Van Gaal before agreeing with Bayern, is seen as the perfect fire-fighting choice with Bayern bosses saying he knew how the club operated and enjoyed the players' trust, something his predecessor had long lost.

"That's just fairytales, that the players were behind (Van Gaal). You could see that a couple of our players' game was dictated by pure fear," said Hoeness.

The softly spoken Dutchman, who was also flamboyant Van Gaal's assistant at Barcelona, will most likely reappoint keeper Joerg Butt as his number one after van Gaal had surprisingly opted to give the start to youngster Thomas Kraft midway through the season despite the club board's vocal objections.

The 36-year-old's experience is seen as crucial in the final phase of the league, with Bayern on 52 points, one behind Hanover 96 and nine off Leverkusen. Borussia Dortmund lead on 66.

"We wanted a man who knows the conditions here, who knows what needs to be changed," said club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Jonker.