Leverkusen look to keep Dortmund waiting
Bayer Leverkusen will this weekend be bidding to make Borussia Dortmund wait at least one week longer before being crowned 2011 Bundesliga champions.
Dortmund's surprise defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach last Saturday and Leverkusen's win over Hoffenheim means there are only five points between the two sides at the top of the table with three games to go. Leverkusen could reduce the arrears at the top to just two points with a win in their local derby against Cologne on Saturday, but their focus is on securing second place with a win.
"You always have to win a derby match, but when you can also qualify directly for the Champions League with a win, then it is the highest motivation imaginable," said Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender on his club's website. "We have played a great season, are in a good position and can wrap things up against Cologne. All we are thinking about is this match point on Saturday. We want to take this first chance."
Dortmund could take advantage of a slip-up by Leverkusen to clinch the title in front of their own fans against Nurnberg this weekend. However, their general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke expects the title race to last at least one more weekend. "Leverkusen will get nine points from their three remaining games," he predicted. "But we will get the points we need to win (the league)."
Defeat for Nurnberg, meanwhile, would jeopardise their chances of qualifying for Europe next season. They trail fifth-placed Mainz by two points, and after the two sides shared a 0-0 draw last weekend, Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel has finally declared his ambition for the season.
"We want to put the cherry on top of the season and it would be a fantastic opportunity to show off Mainz," he said. "There are a few steps still to take, but definitely we want to get into Europe."
They host Eintracht Frankfurt in a local derby match which opposition coach Christoph Daum claimed is "bigger than the derbies between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke". It will certainly be a big game for his side since defeat could see them slip into the bottom three, should Wolfsburg beat Werder Bremen tomorrow night.
Cologne could also drop into the relegation zone this weekend if they fail to beat Leverkusen, under the guidance of Volker Finke, who this week took over from Frank Schafer after he resigned. St Pauli and Borussia Monchengladbach run the risk of being mathematically condemned to a bottom three finish if they lose their games in Kaiserslautern and Hannover respectively while Stuttgart could celebrate safety with a win at Hoffenheim.
Elsewhere, Hamburg and Freiburg meet at the HSV-Arena and the weekend concludes with a mouth-watering contest at the Allianz Arena, where Bayern Munich host the Bundesliga's only remaining European representative Schalke. Bayern will be looking to regain third spot from Hannover and could find a Schalke side saving their energy in view of next week's trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.