High stakes for Bayern, Hannover
The race for second place in the Bundesliga intensifies this weekend with Hannover and Bayern Munich meeting at the Niedersachsen Stadion in a pivotal match in terms of UEFA Champions League qualification next season.
Borussia Dortmund's 3-1 win in Munich last weekend combined with Bayer Leverkusen's draw with Werder Bremen means Jurgen Klopp's side are now marching towards the title. They have a 12-point advantage over Leverkusen, who are two points ahead of Hannover and four clear of Bayern with ten games of the season remaining.
That gap could increase further tomorrow night when Dortmund entertain Cologne knowing that they need just six wins from their final ten games to be mathematically certain of the title, and the race behind them is to clinch the second automatic qualification berth for the Champions League.
"Second place is our aim," said Bayern coach Louis van Gaal after his side was knocked out of the DFB-Pokal in midweek. That also seems to be the new objective of Hannover too.
"We have got to start believing that we have a good team," said their coach Mirko Slomka. "If I were to go out on a limb, I would have to say that we are playing for a place in the Champions League this weekend."
Leverkusen are the team both Hannover and Bayern, and even fifth-placed Mainz, are following and they host Wolfsburg on Saturday afternoon. Mainz got back to winning ways last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim and that will give them confidence for a trip to Hamburg on Sunday.
Elsewhere, struggling Stuttgart will hope to leave the relegation zone by beating Schalke, who may well be suffering a hangover after beating Bayern yesterday to book their place in the DFB-Pokal final in May.
The stakes are high at the Waldstadion where Eintracht Frankfurt go in search of their first goals and first win of 2011 against Kaiserslautern while Borussia Monchengladbach will try and keep their hopes of avoiding relegation alive when they host Hoffenheim.
Finally, in-form Nurnberg will try to edge closer to the 40-point mark with a home win over St Pauli and Werder Bremen travel to Freiburg looking to build on their 2-2 draw with Leverkusen last Sunday.