Leverkusen looking to end 2009 on top of Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen will be looking to hold off Schalke and Bayern
Munich in the final round of 2009 and spend the three-week winter
break at the top of the Bundesliga.
The symbolic title of "Fall Champions" is up for grabs between the trio, with Leverkusen playing at Borussia Moenchengladbach, while Schalke hosts Mainz and Bayern plays at home against last-place Hertha Berlin.
Leverkusen, the last of the undefeated teams, leads the league with 32 points from 16 matches and face a Moenchengladbach side which has lost just once in their last seven games.
"We have to mobilize our forces one more time," Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes said. "This game is like a final, a real highlight. And whoever has watched 'Gladbach closely the last couple games knows exactly what kind of performance is needed to win all three points."
And the coach knows his team cannot ease up on their opponents, who have beaten Hamburg and Schalke in their recent stretch as well as played well in a 2-1 loss at Bayern Munich.
"We want to put a crown on this excellent first half," added Heynckes, who will have center back Manuel Friedrich in the team.
If Leverkusen keeps a hold of first place, it would be only the second time since 1963 that the team earned the title of "Fall Champions." Schalke has twice led the Bundesliga at the break while Bayern has been on top 16 times.
Schalke is second in the league with 31 points, and Bayern is next with 30. But Munich goalkeeper Joerg Butt does not think his team has much of a chance to move up to first place.
"That would mean that two teams have to lose," Butt said.
Bayern coach Louis van Gaal is expected to play France playmaker Franck Ribery, at least briefly. Ribery has missed 11 weeks with a knee problem.
Also, fifth-place Hamburg hosts fourth-place Werder Bremen in a battle of local rivals, defending champion Wolfsburg will head to Eintracht Frankfurt, and there are reports that Wolfsburg coach Armin Veh's job could be in jeopardy with a loss.
Also this weekend, it's: FC Cologne vs. FC Nuremberg; Borussia Dortmund vs. Freiburg; Stuttgart vs. Hoffenheim; and Hannover vs. Bochum.