Bayern Munich achieved its first goal of the season by reaching the
quarterfinals of the Champions League and will now turn its
attention to extending its lead in the Bundesliga.
Bayern advanced to the Champions League final eight on
Wednesday night despite a 3-2 loss at Fiorentina.
“That was very important for German football and FC Bayern,”
said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
But Rummenigge urged Bayern fans to remain calm, adding:
“What’s important now is to not start dreaming.”
“Other teams like Chelsea are stronger than Fiorentina,” said
Dutch winger Arjen Robben, whose spectacular midweek strike booked
Bayern’s spot in the last eight courtesy of the away goals rule.
Bayern’s next opponent in the Bundesliga,
relegation-threatened Freiburg, however, is far from the caliber of
Fiorentina and coach Louis van Gaal must keep his troops focused on
the task at hand in the Bundesliga.
Still, the numbers speak for themselves. Bayern have not lost
a point at home against Freiburg since the 1996-97 season and have
outscored Freiburg 22-5 in their 10 matches at home.
A victory could also mean that Bayern – with 53 points from
25 rounds – could take a five-point lead in the Bundesliga.
That would be the case if both second-placed Schalke (51
points) and third placed Bayer Levekusen (50) stumble in tough home
Bayern actually could be looking up to Schalke from second
place when they face Freiburg on Saturday as Schalke would grab the
top spot Friday night with a win over Stuttgart.
Schalke coach Felix Magath has his team well-drilled in the
art of understatement and avoiding any talk of the title.
“We are not even thinking about the league lead,” said
Schalke’s Benedikt Howedes.
“We are not worried about that. We are just thinking game to
game. This attitude has brought us this far already,” said
And Magath said point blank: “We are not a title candidate.”
The experienced and successful coach used a similar low-key
approach over the final third of the 2008-09 season before leading
Wolfsburg to its first ever Bundesliga championship. But Magath
knows that Stuttgart will be a tough opponent. And Schalke’s three
following games are in Hamburg and Leverkusen and then at home
“We have to wait until after those games. Afterwards we can
say what’s possible at the end of the season,” said Magath.
Stuttgart, for their part, has the second best record since
the winter break behind Bayern Munich and have lost just once in
their last 11 matches.
A victory for Stuttgart could bring Christian Gross’s team
within four points of fifth place and a European qualification spot
after looking like relegation candidates earlier in the season.
Leverkusen, meanwhile, look to rebound from their first loss
of the season and face fourth-placed Hamburg (43) on Sunday without
budding superstar playmaker Toni Kroos.
“I am sure that the guys have learned from this loss. They
have been awakened and will come out of this situation with more
strength,” said Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes.
“We will start a new streak.”
The other showdown of note takes place at the bottom of the
standings where last-placed Hertha Berlin host Nuremberg, in the
final safe spot in 15th place. Berlin, who have not won at home in
11 matches, have just 15 points and are six points behind
“Our guys are just too nice. Throughout the team, they are
all nice son-in-laws,” said veteran Pal Dardai, who on Saturday
will set the record for most games played for Hertha at 281.
“We are missing the pigs, the nasty characters.”
Elsewhere, Borussia Moenchengladbach host Wolfsburg; Bochum
welcome Borussia Dortmund; Cologne travel to Mainz; and Eintracht
Frankfurt play at Hannover on Saturday.
Sunday’s first match has Hoffenheim playing host to Werder