Vogts wants end to Bundesliga break

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Berti Vogts, who is facing a World Cup qualifier in Armenia without seven key players, yesterday called for the Bundesliga to scrap its two- month winter break.

"Since we've had the winter break we've had injury problems because we force the players to play every three or four days," the German coach said in Yerevan on the eve of today's match, the first in Germany's campaign.

"The fact is, the players get less and less time to regenerate," he said. "That makes them more vulnerable to injury. We are the only major soccer federation that takes two breaks."

Vogts's predecessor as coach, the Bayern Munich president, Franz Beckenbauer, supported Vogts. "We just can't afford to have five months off altogether, and get the the players fit from scratch twice over," he said.

Germany's league programme is fairly compact compared to other major European leagues. An 18-team First Division means a programme of just 34 league matches, coupled with a much less arduous Cup schedule than in, say, England.

For this reason many of Germany's league clubs have also begun to think the break from mid-December to mid-February, introduced in 1986-87, is counter-productive.

Among the most vociferous are those who have to play in European competitions at a time when the players may not have seen league action for several weeks.

The Blackburn Rovers defender Henning Berg has flown out for World Cup duty just hours after becoming the father of a baby son. Berg joins the Norwegian squad in time for today's European Group Three qualifier against Hungary after shaking off the effects of a virus infection.

Berg, who missed Blackburn's last Premiership game at Coventry, should be back in the running for this Saturday's home match with Arsenal.

Manchester United's Czech Republic player, Karel Poborsky, has admitted the Euro 96 finalists cannot afford to lose tonight's qualifying game with Spain in Prague.

Both sides opened their European Group Six campaigns last month with high-scoring victories over the two weakest teams in the group, with Spain beating the Faroe Islands 6-2 and the Republic thrashing Malta 6-0.

However, Yugoslavia have already collected three wins and Slovakia two against the same teams, putting pressure on both the Czechs and Spain to pull off a result.

Poborsky, signed by Alex Ferguson from Slavia Prague for pounds 3.6m following his sparkling performances during the summer for the Czechs, said: "Spain are explosive and technically very sound. This game's made all the more important because a loss will make it a difficult trip for either side."

However, Liverpool's in-form striker Patrik Berger believes the Czechs have nothing to fear. He said: "Spain is obviously a strong team but we showed in London that we can play anybody."

The Czech Republic coach, Dusan Uhrin, has named 16 of the 19-strong squad which caused a surprise in June, while Spain's manager, Javier Clemente, has finally decided to hand a debut to teenage striking sensation Raul Gonzalez in a bid to add much-needed firepower.

The 19-year-old, who scored twice against the Czechs in the quarter-finals of last season's European Under-21 competition, is Real Madrid's top scorer despite being moved into a supporting role by the new coach, Fabio Capello.

Clemente, who has dropped veteran forward Julio Salinas while Kiko Narvaez is injured, admitted: "There are some players absent, so it's the right moment to pick Raul."

Jose Luis Caminero is fit and is expected to be given the role of playmaker in the starting line-up.