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Schalke Aim to Slash Munich's Lead

For six weeks Stuttgart have kept a shaky hold on third place, but that may lose that grip if they don't improve in Hamburg. Meanwhile Schalke 04 continue their stab at displacing Bayern Munich from first place.

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Just three points seperate second place Schalke from Bayern Munich

The last two weeks have been difficult ones for Stuttgart coach Matthias Sammer. Last week his team tied with 10th placed Kaiserslautern and the week before that, VfB fell to Nuremberg. Stuttgart hope to take a step in reversing their somber 18-2 record in Hamburg on Saturday.

But Hamburg are not going roll over for the southerners. HSV won their last two games in convincing style and fought to within two points of European competition territory. A win against Stuttgart would give Thomas Doll's team a helpful boost of confidence in its UEFA Cup bid.

Sport Fußball Bundesliga VfB Stuttgart - 1. FC Kaiserslautern

Stuttgart was stuck watching the ball in last week's draw with Kaiserslautern

Schalke still chasing Bayern

Only one win separates Schalke 04 from the Bundesliga's top spot but last week only an equalizer in extra time salvaged a tie for the Royal Blues and saved them from embarrassment at the hands of last-placed Hansa Rostock. The draw left some observers wondering if Rolf Rangnick's players have what it takes to be German champions.

"It's clear that if we want to stay in the race, we have to get a series of wins started," said Schalke captain Ebbe Sand. He went on to say Schalke have every intention of taking the German crown.

Hansa Rostock gegen FC Schalke 04

A last-second goal saved Schalke from embarrassment against Rostock

Sand and co. will be looking to start the series at home against VfL Wolfsburg, who haven't won an away game for nearly five months.

It doesn't look like Schalke will be able to make up any ground this week as Munich face 12th placed Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday.

The match may prove to be closer than expected. Though Bielefeld have gone without a win since Nov. 20, Felix Magath's Bavarians have a psychological barrier of their own -- the last time they won away at Bielefeld was in May 2000.

First half blues

If the season had ended at the half-way stage then both Bayer Leverkusen and FSV Mainz would have been gasping for breath after an exhausting relegation battle. Luckily for Leverkusen the season continues, meaning it's only last-season's second division team Mainz that's left wondering if they will be in German top flight this time next year.

Mainz proved itself capable of surprise in the first round match-up beating sixth placed Leverkusen 2-0. A win in Leverkusen now would mean a lot in Mainz's race to avoid relegation after the team lost its last six games.

Fußball-Bundesliga, Schalke 04 gegen 1.FC Kaiserslautern

Kaiserslautern has been playing well lately

Rostock can sympathize as it's been a long 12 games since their last Bundesliga win while Kaiserslautern are enjoying a six-game unbeaten streak, claiming 14 of 18 possible points.

"If we win then we shouldn't have any worries about relegation," said Rene Jäggi, Kaiserlautern's executive board manager about the team's position.

Vfl Bochum are going to need more than just one win to end their fight out of the relegation zone. Currently 16th, Bochum are three points from the league basement and six points from 15th-placed Mainz. The last time Bochum met Borussia Dortmund they played to a 2-2 draw.

SC Freiburg coach Volker Finke didn't have much to celebrate last season, but one of the highlights was a 4-1 success over Hanover. Now Hanover are ready to extend their run of two away wins with another in Freiburg and improve on the 2-2 result that came from the teams' last meeting.

Gladbach's sad stretch

Da half alles Anfeuern nicht

Berlin kept Bayern goalie Oliver Kahn's blood pressure up last week

Borussia Mönchengladbach haven't had a Bundesliga win in Bremen in the last 15 years. In fact, Gladbach have received more red cards -- four -- than points -- three -- during their trips to the harbor city. The situation doesn't look like it will improve as last year's German champions haven't lost at home since early October.

Both Hertha Berlin and Nuremberg have had more success away than at home, so when 13th-placed Nuremberg arrive in Berlin there's no chance it will be taken lightly by the fifth-placed hosts.

A win for Berlin would helps their chances at remaining in contention for a UEFA Cup seed.

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