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Champs Play Catch-up as Title Hopes Dim

Setting their sights on the ultimate European club prize may be an honorable quest but not when at the expense of the Bundesliga title they already hold. Werder Bremen enter Week Fifteen in need of a change of focus.

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Remember this? Werder fans remind their team of domestic chores

Werder Bremen need to refocus on defending their Bundesliga title this weekend with a possible make-or-break clash against Borussia Dortmund in store. Bremen, the defending champions, lost 2-1 at Arminia Bielefeld last weekend to drop to eighth place, eight points behind new leaders Bayern Munich.

Then came the midweek disappointment at home, when Bremen managed only a 1-1 tie against Inter Milan and failed to secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. Bremen still has a chance to advance in the last group match at Valencia.

Saturday’s opponents Dortmund are in bigger trouble. BVB were crowned German champions just two years ago but now the club is battling a huge debt of nearly €120 million ($157 million) and is trying to ease through a management shake-up. The on-field exploits are also troubling. Down in 13th place in the standings, Dortmund desperately need to start moving up in hopes of reaching a lucrative European competition next season.

European prize a distraction for champions

Werder gegen Valencia

Bremen feel the pressure of European contests at home.

Bremen players have conceded that their minds were more on the Champions League this season than on defending the Bundesliga title and they've already lost five games - one more than in the whole of last season.

"I know that they don't find the Bundesliga a nasty burden," said general manager Klaus Allofs. "It's not a matter of attitude. The team just doesn't have the stability and the confidence it had last season." Coach Thomas Schaaf has also been forced to reshuffle his team frequently because of injuries and inconsistent form.

Bayern Munich, who seized the lead for the first time last weekend, defends the top spot against newcomers Mainz, who lie seventh, seven points behind. Bayer will have their tales up after putting five past the mediocre European challengers of Maccabi Tel-Aviv on Tuesday. Bayern are enjoying a rich seam of form of late with three back-to-back victories in the league and success in the German Cup in addition to progressing in Europe’s premier cup competition.

Deposed Wolfsburg look to keep pace

Second placed Wolfsburg hosts Hertha Berlin in ninth and will welcome the return of playmaker Andres d'Alessandro, but fellow Argentine, defender Facundo Quiroga, is suspended.

13. Spieltag Bundesliga: VfL Wolfsburg - VfB Stuttgart 3:0

Wolfsburg's forward Thomas Brdaric shouts after scoring.

The Wolves were toppled from the top spot last weekend after losing 3-1 away to Hamburg despite taking the lead through Thomas Brdaric (photo). While their tenure has been surprising at the top, the Wolves will not be throwing the towel in yet and will want to keep pace with Bayern.

In other Week Fifteen matches on Saturday, Kaiserslautern play Freiburg, Bochum meet Nuremberg, Borussia Mönchengladbach hosts Hamburger SV, and bottom-place Hansa Rostock faces Bayer Leverkusen, fresh from their clash with the galacticos of Real Madrid.

Stuttgart look to avoid another blow

Fußball Bundesliga Stuttgart gegen Hannover 96

Stuttgart have been cut down to size in recent weeks.

Sunday provides two clashes involving top-ranked teams. Hanover, another surprise package this season, take on early front-runners Stuttgart, who are two points and one place above them. A win for Hanover will see them leapfrog Matthias Sammer’s side and add more woes onto VfB who have seen their title aspirations take a battering over the past few weeks.

Schalke 04, currently enjoying third place, take on Arminia Bielefeld, the sixth placed side.

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