Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 will continue to fight it out for the title after wins this weekend put them clear of the pack. Everyone else will have to settle for battling for European slots.
Stuttgart's title chances are slim but Timo Hildebrand still eyes Europe
Bayern Munich warmed up for Wednesday's Champions League showdown with Chelsea with a convincing 3-0 win over VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday as they retained their position at the top of the Bundesliga.
Bayern manager Felix Magath claimed international matches had left his selection of cosmopolitan troops drained but there were no signs of fatigue as Munich took the game to Wolfsburg. With 29 minutes gone Torsten Frings darted down the right flank and found German international Bastian Schweinsteiger with a cross to the back post. Schweinsteiger showed great poise to trap the ball before producing an accomplished side-footed volley.
"We do not need to look at anyone else as we are top," said Schweinsteiger. "Our fate is in our own hands and I firmly believe we will win the title."
Luck favors the brave as Bayern go for big win
Bayern remain on course in their title challenge with a comfortable away win against Wolfsburg.
With the seconds ticking down to the half-time interval Bayern doubled their lead although there was a touch of fortune involved. Roy Makaay drilled his shot at Wolves goalkeeper Simon Jentzsch but the ball ricocheted off Wolves defender Kevin Hofland and rolled back into the net.
Wolves hit the post in the 54th minute and Bayern rubbed salt in the wounds by scoring sixty seconds later with the impressive Frings glancing a header in. "We were compact at the back and did what was necessary up front," explained Magath. "This was an important step towards the championship."
While another league win cheered Magath the coach was dismayed by an injury to Claudio Pizarro that forces the Peruvian international to miss Wednesday's trip to Chelsea. Dutch international Makaay is also a doubt after sustaining a thigh injury.
Schalke 04 stay clipping at Bayern's heels following a 4-1 home triumph over FC Nuremberg and lie second on goal difference.
Bit-player Hanke becomes star attraction
Mike Hanke, being congratulated by team mates, sealed the win for Schalke.
Danish international striker Ebbe Sand was forced off after just seven minutes due to injury and German Under-21 international Mike Hanke came on in his place. It proved a blessing in disguise as Hanke produced a great leap to direct a header home in the 24th minute.
In the 36th minute Brazilian Ailton then fed Hanke and the marksman made no mistake to notch his second goal. Schalke recently confirmed their interest in signing Stuttgart's German international Kevin Kuranyi but Hanke feels they are well-equipped in attack. "Schalke do not need a Kevin Kuranyi when they have Mike Hanke," said the man himself.
Ailton scored four minutes later as Schalke went into cruise control and compatriot Lincoln netted on 74 minutes to cap a fine afternoon. Schalke may be level on points with Bayern but have four tough games coming up against Stuttgart, SV Hamburg, Hertha Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen in a run that could make or break their championship dream.
Stuttgart kill off Bremen's defense of title
Champions resigned to abdication, Bremen struggled against Stuttgart.
Third-placed VfB Stuttgart continue to be the jinx side for champions Werder Bremen recording a 2-1 victory at the Weserstadion. The result means Stuttgart are four points ahead of Bremen and strong favorites to seal the final Champions League spot for next season.
Reigning champions Bremen have refused to wave the white flag in their title defense but their slim hopes vanished with the 2-1 home reverse against VfB.
Silvio Meissner put Stuttgart ahead in the 48th minute but Bremen equalized through Ivan Klasnic four minutes later. A frantic scramble followed in the closing stages with Bremen's French defender Valerien Ismael dismissed on 84 minutes for two bookable offences and Stuttgart struck the killer blow three minutes later through Christian Tiffert.
Bremen were nine points clear at the top of the table last term as they powered to the title but this season just reaching the Champions League would suffice.
Berlin wave goodbye to Champions League
Hertha Berlin were another team eyeing Europe's premier competition but their dream ended on Sunday following a 2-1 defeat at Borussia Dortmund which ended a four-game unbeaten streak. It also meant that Berlin have not won in Dortmund for 33 years.
The capital club are seven points behind Stuttgart and a UEFA Cup berth now looks to be the target. Borussia Dortmund climbed two places on the back of the win and are now in ninth, raising hopes of a possible UEFA Cup spot of their own after a wretched season. "After we got ahead we should have made it 3-0 or 4-0," said Dortmund trainer Bert van Marwijk. "The win was deserved."
Dortmund play for pride after disaster season
Ewerthon put Dortmund ahead against Berlin.
Dortmund led 2-0 at halftime with goals from Brazilian Ewerthon and Ebi Smolarek before Germany defender Arne Friedrich halved the deficit after 62 minutes.
Hertha goalkeeper Christian Fielder stopped shots from Smolarek and Ewerthon, while Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller was also busy in front of 76,100 spectators at the Westfalen stadium.
It seems like we lack the belief that we can win in Dortmund," said Hertha trainer Falko Götz. "We made two stupid mistakes and got behind 2-0." Götz said he was annoyed about a shoving match between Friedrich and midfield team mate Marcelinho at halftime. "That's out of line," Goetz said. "There's going to be a price to pay for that."