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Fluidity of Close Campaign Adds Pressure

The Bundesliga continues with the second round of mid-week games completing Week Ten. With four matches already decided, Wednesday night's results could be the rise or fall for many.

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Werder Bremen take on VfB Stuttgart in the game of the day

VfB Stuttgart will have watched the Bayern Munich - Wolfsburg game with interest. Wolfsburg took advantage of VfB's defeat against Freiburg at the weekend by retaking top slot on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Bochum.

However, Bayern curtailed the Wolves on Tuesday night with two Claudio Pizarro goals sealing a 2-0 win. That result leaves Stuttgart one point behind Wolfsburg with a game in hand.

That game is against champions Werder Bremen. A win for Stuttgart in the big game of the top tier will take VfB to the top of the league once more. However, Werder will be looking to close a gap of their own.

Lying in fifth and six points off the top before Wednesday's game, Bremen will be cautious not to lose any more ground to the breakaway pack at the top of the league.

Champions need to close the gap

Bayern moved into the third slot with their win over Wolfsburg, just a point off the summit, while Hanover's fifth straight win keeps them in fourth. Bremen will have to leap-frog a number of form teams if they want to get to the top by Christmas, the position they were in at the winter break last year.

Logo 1. FSV Mainz 05

FSV Mainz 05

Just behind them, on the same number of points, sit FSV Mainz. The promoted team were flying high with confidence and with good results found themselves in third before the 2-1 defeat to Schalke 04 at the weekend saw them drop to sixth. A win in Week Ten could see Mainz stay in touch with the leaders, possibly moving up to fourth if Bremen lose in Stuttgart.

Mainz play host to Hansa Rostock on Wednesday. It's already looking like an uphill battle for the team from far north. Second from bottom with just eight points from nine games, Rostock travel to Mainz after losing 2-0 to Bayern Munich on Saturday. A win, however, will take them out of the drop zone and, other results permitting, as high as 12th.

Schalke look to climb at Nuremberg's expense

The team currently inhabiting that slot is Nuremberg. A home match against Schalke 04 is the challenge that awaits Juri Schlünz's team if they want to fend off the advances of those below Rostock who want to supplant them.

A resurgent Schalke 04 is probably not the best test of a wobbling side's confidence straight after a 4-1 drubbing by the champions Werder Bremen at the weekend. However, that heavy defeat was not compounded by results around them and Nuremberg only slipped one place.

8 Spieltag Bundesliga Bayern München gegen Schalke 04

Ailton is recapturing his form for Schalke at last.

Schalke 04 recorded their third win off the bat at the weekend by beating Mainz. Victories over Bochum and Bayern in consecutive weeks have taken the Royal Blues out of the doldrums of the relegation zone and fired their title challenge.

Now up to sixth seventh on the same number of points as Mainz and Bremen, Schalke are in striking distance of the top four. With Brazilian striker Ailton scoring -- and apparently happy -- at last, the Royal Blues will be confident of climbing the league after Wednesday night's match.

Leverkusen in danger of mediocrity

Another team who will also be looking to step up a couple of rungs is Bayer Leverkusen. The exciting form of the early exchanges has been replaced by frustrating inconsistency. One minute Leverkusen are tearing apart quality opposition, the next they're stumbling as if their boot laces are tied together.

The weekend's disappointing 0-0 draw with now bottom club Kaiserslautern was a gilt-edged opportunity to return to the top five. Instead, Bayer face Arminia Bielefeld as the ninth placed team in the Bundesliga.

Logo Arminia Bielefeld

Bielefeld were sixth a month ago but reality seems to have bitten a little and the promoted side have since dropped back to eighth. They can find out whether it was just a case of altitude sickness or a calling to permanent mid-table mediocrity on Wednesday night.

Higher echelons call to Bielefeld

Can they maintain a bid for a European place or is it just an anomaly in what should, on paper, be a season of struggle for the newcomers? A win over Leverkusen will see Bielefeld climb as high as fifth, if Bremen lose, and will have the team watching each other for nose bleeds. A defeat would not be so drastic in terms of placings with the two opponents swapping places. Either would see Arminia in a not too disgraceful a position.

Unlike Hamburg SV who currently find themselves playing the role of pale imitations of the European Champions they once were. Despite raising their game to beat a shoddy Borussia Dortmund side 2-0 at the weekend, Hamburg are still in a bad way in the third relegation spot with nine points from as many games.

Hamburg prepare drop-zone exit strategy

Bundesliga 2004, Hamburger SV gegen VfL Wolfsburg 2:0, 20. Spieltag

Sergej Barbarez could celebrate again if Hamburg beat Freiburg on Wednesday night.

A victory over SC Freiburg however could see the Hamburgers climb the lower reaches of the league and maybe get some breathing space around the 12th or 13th spot, depending on how others get on.

SC Freiburg's win over Stuttgart may turn out to be nothing more than a blip on VfB's roads to a possible championship rather than the win that turns their own season around. It may have lifted them from 16th to 13th but defeat against Hamburg on Wednesday could see Freiburg drop further.

Wins for both their opponents and Rostock would see Freiburg drop to 15th, overlooking the precipice into the abyss of the relegation zone once again. But, such is the closeness of the league; a win would take them into mid-table.

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