Bayern Munich’s stretch of crucial games concludes Saturday with a
trip to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
Fresh from securing a place in the semifinals of the
Champions League to stay on course for a treble, Bayern can move
nine points clear of third-place Leverkusen and move closer to
reclaiming the Bundesliga title.
“It’s been a super season, but we still haven’t won anything.
We have to keep going,” said Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who scored
the second goal in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Manchester United that
took Bayern into the last four on away goals.
Schalke, which is one point behind Bayern, plays at
relegation-threatened Hannover. A victory in Leverkusen would mean
that Bayern has beaten both of its closest title-chasing rivals.
“It’s important to retain the tension, that we don’t start
being complacent and that we keep on fighting these last few
weeks,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
After the game in Manchester, Rummenigge hosted a party in
the team’s hotel and presented Franck Ribery with a cake for his
27th birthday and a pen – which Rummenigge hoped the France winger
would use to sign a contract extension.
Ribery is reportedly the target of several top European clubs
but Bayern hopes to keep him, especially if the team starts winning
titles again. Bayern is in the last four of the Champions League
for the first time since 2001, when it won the title.
Despite sputtering along the way after a shaky start, Louis
van Gaal’s team reclaimed top spot in the Bundesliga with a 2-1 win
at Schalke last week.
With five rounds remaining, Bayern has 59 points, Schalke 58
and faltering Leverkusen 53.
The team did not fly back to Munich after the game in
Manchester but instead chose to prepare near Leverkusen.
In Leverkusen, Bayern will find Jupp Heynckes, under whose
guidance the team qualified for the Champions League last season by
finishing second. Heynckes is a close friend of Bayern president
Heynckes stepped in for the last five games as a replacement
for Juergen Klinsmann and then moved on to Leverkusen.
Leverkusen, which led the league for 16 weeks, is coming off
three straight losses and another defeat Saturday would not only
dash its title hopes but also threaten its third-place position and
a slot in Champions League qualifying. Borussia Dortmund is only
one point behind and travels to Mainz.
“I am certain that we will finish third,” Heynckes said. “We
have the potential and we have the morale. We are playing well but
we are making some mistakes that have cost us dearly.
“And I don’t think that the championship will be decided
Schalke aim to bounce back from its disappointing loss to
10-man Bayern, dropping Felix Magath’s team to second place.
After the loss, Magath said his team could forget about
winning its first championship in 52 years.
“We don’t need to talk about that game, it’s behind us,” he
Qualifying for the Champions League would be a major boost
for financially strapped Schalke and allow Magath to add to his
squad and maybe keep striker Kevin Kuranyi, who has contributed 18
goals this season.
Eintracht Frankfurt takes a three-game winning streak to
Borussia Moenchengladbach to kick off the 30th round Friday.
On Saturday, Hertha Berlin visits Stuttgart, Hoffenheim hosts
Cologne and Werder Bremen plays Freiburg.
On Sunday, Bochum travels to Hamburg and Nuremberg hosts