Bayern hosts Hannover in Bundesliga

While trying to save itself from relegation, Hannover also has a

major role in the Bundesliga title race.

The struggling team surprisingly beat Schalke 4-2 last week

at home to deal Felix Magath’s team perhaps a crucial blow to its

hopes of a first championship in 52 years.

Now, Hannover travels to Bayern Munich, which needs a win to

cement or extend its two-point lead atop the standings.

There are four rounds left in the season, and with Bayer

Leverkusen six points behind Bayern, it’s a two-team race for the


Bayern is on course for a treble, having reached final of the

German Cup and the semifinals of the Champions League.

But club officials have stressed that the Bundesliga title

remains the primary objective.

“I believe that the Bundesliga title is the key to possible

further success,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

After beating Schalke and drawing with Leverkusen in

successive weeks, Bayern is well placed to finish its first season

under coach Louis van Gaal with at least one piece of silverware.

Van Gaal has baffled the German media by stating that he

would leave Bayern if he managed to win all three titles – “there

would be nothing to improve then,” he said.

Although the statement in a German television interview

appeared to be at least partly in jest, the other media have not

been sure what to make of van Gaal’s statement.

Hannover may have been encouraged by its win over Schalke,

but it has only one victory in 20 trips to Munich.

The club has recovered slowly from the suicide of captain and

goalkeeper Robert Enke and is in 16th place, one point from safety.

The 16th place means a relegation/promotion playoff against the

third-place team from the second division.

Schalke’s losses against Bayern and Hannover have severely

damaged its title hopes and Magath has said a place in the

Champions League remains his team’s goal.

But Bayern’s general manager Christian Nerlinger doesn’t

think Magath’s team has surrendered.

“It is all in our own hands. But I don’t believe that Schalke

will continue losing,” Nerlinger said.

Schalke’s captain Marcelo Bordon says his team has not given

up all hope.

“We want the maximum. Nothing is over yet. We will fight for

everything possible,” said the bulky veteran who defender who is

back after a suspension.

Schalke plays Borussia Moenchengladbach, which is safe in the

middle of the table.

Leverkusen, winless in its last four games, visits Stuttgart

knowing that its third place is under threat from Borussia Dortmund

and Werder Bremen, who are two and three points behind,


Stuttgart is hoping to close the gap to a place in the Europa


Bremen travels to last season’s champion Wolfsburg, while

Dortmund hosts slumping Hoffenheim on Sunday.

Hamburger SV hopes to remain sixth when it hosts Mainz.

Cologne kicks off the 31st round Friday at home against

Bochum. In the relegation battle, Freiburg plays Nuremberg on

Saturday, while Eintracht Frankfurt hosts bottom-place Hertha

Berlin on Sunday.