Reigning champions Werder Bremen are on their last legs. With only eight games remaining, Thomas Schaaf's side is six points behind the leaders. This Saturday, they face nearest rivals Stuttgart.
Ivan Klasnic and Werder Bremen must win if they want the trophy
Thomas Schaaf was happy to see a great majority of his squad at Tuesday's practice -- healthy. Others like strikers Ivan Klasnic (Croatia), Nelson Valdez (Paraguay) and midfielder Ludovic Magnin (Switzerland) all celebrated victories with their national teams on Wednesday. When they return to Bremen, they will be thrown again into the fire.
Werder coach Thomas Schaaf in a familiar pose -- last season. A victory against Stuttgart would raise the possibility of a repeat
Bremen stand in fourth-place in the league on 47 points, six points behind Bayern Munich and Schalke 04. They continue to hope they can retain the title and will start this weekend against their nearest rival in the standings, Stuttgart who are in third on 48 points.
Matthias Sammer's side is equally hungry for the Bundesliga championship. An unimpressive win against hapless Freiburg on March 20 was not the best presupposition for a title run. Nevertheless, there is talk of it. German international defender Philipp Lahm, on loan from Bayern Munich until the end of this season, is the latest Stuttgart player to express this desire: "I want to be champion with Stuttgart; that's my goal," he told kicker magazine.
Bayern and Munich look to keep distance
Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 naturally have other ideas. Schalke 04 handed the league-lead back to Felix Magath's Munich on the 26th match-day after being at the top only one week.
Ralf Rangnick's Royal Blues suffered a humiliating 2-1 defeat against promoted side Mainz but they can depend on the services of international striker Gerald Asamoah who has recovered from a torn thigh muscle. Schalke host Nuremberg and the league's leading goal scorer, Marek Mintal. When these two sides met in the first leg, two Nuremberg players were sent off the pitch in the first 33 minutes.
Bayern Munich scored the tying goal against Rostock on March 19, the Bavarians went on to win the match and ended at the top of the standings again
Wolfsburg (8th-place, 37 points) are Bayern Munich's opponent on Saturday -- it couldn't be more opportune for Felix Magath's team. Against no other squad have Bayern had more success. 12 wins in 15 fixtures, only one loss. The only glimmers of hope for Erik Gerets' Wolves are Bayern's weakness on the road (four points in their last four road contests) and the fact that so many Munich players were playing for their national teams in World Cup qualifiers the past ten days.
Felix Magath points out however that Bayern's toughest matches are behind them and the only thing that counts is how things look at the end of the season.
Still a hot battle for European money
The fight for the all-important fifth-place in the Bundesliga and a spot in the UEFA Cup next season is being carried out by three clubs: Hertha Berlin (44 points) , Bayer Leverkusen (43) and Hamburger SV (43). Hamburg have the easiest opponent: last-place Freiburg. Thomas Doll's first game as Hamburg coach was against Freiburg and it was a full-blown success: 4-0. Freiburg are floundering and nothing short of a wonder can save Volker Finke's club from dropping down into the second division next season.