Battle for 3rd place is on in the Bundesliga
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP)
The only thing left for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga is to officially pick up the trophy, and Borussia Dortmund seems secure in second place, so the real battle is for the one remaining direct slot in next season's Champions League.
While Bayern and Dortmund are likely to concentrate on the Champions League after both reached the semifinals, several teams are eying third place in the Bundesliga.
Bayer Leverkusen has a four-point lead over Schalke heading into their showdown on Saturday in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke has recovered from a mid-season slump and has won five of its last six. Leverkusen has won only one of its last four, with two defeats.
Bayern picked up its 23rd German championship last weekend, becoming that first team to seal the title so early in the season. With only one loss in 28 games, Bayern is enjoying a magnificent season after going through two without a title.
Jupp Heynckes' team won 2-0 in Turin on Wednesday to reach the last four of the Champions League and is also in the semifinals of the German Cup.
Dortmund edged Malaga 3-2 on Tuesday to progress in the Champions League, which is the only trophy Dortmund can lift this season after losing its domestic dominance to Bayern. With six games remaining, Dortmund is six points ahead of Leverkusen in second place.
''After a game like that, we are capable of doing anything,'' Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin said after his team scored twice in stoppage time to beat Malaga. ''We want the title.''
While Dortmund travels to last-place Greuther Fuerth, Bayern hosts Nuremberg in the Bavarian derby.
But Leverkusen's trip to Gelsenkirchen is potentially one of the decisive matches until the end of the season.
''It's a crucial game. If we want third place, we really have to win,'' Schalke defender Joel Matip said.
Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes said even fourth place was good enough.
''We are on a good run but it's going to be close,'' Hoewedes said. ''We had a long, miserable run but if we finish in fourth place we can say we've had a good season, although we have quality to be third.''
Schalke will be without forward Jefferson Farfan because of a hamstring injury and midfielder Jermaine Jones because of a foot gash.
Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes said his team was relaxed ahead of the short trip to the neighboring club.
''If we win, we are all but sure to finish third. If we lose, we still can't be overtaken,'' Rolfes said.
Freiburg, which is seeking fourth place, kicks off the 29th round Friday against Hannover.
On Saturday, Wolfsburg hosts Hoffenheim, Hamburger SV travels to Mainz and Werder Bremen visits Fortuna Duesseldorf. On Sunday, Stuttgart hosts Borussia Moenchengladbach and Augsburg plays Eintracht Frankfurt.