It is turning into a three horse race in the Bundesliga. League leaders Bayern Munich played Friday and won. Schalke won too on Saturday. Third place Stuttgart keep pace by winning in Mainz.
Schalke celebrated a win and their ability to keep up with Munich
Coming into the first weekend of the second leg, Bayern Munich and Schalke could take matters into their own hands with victories. This they did with victories in the 18th match day of the Bundesliga.
Munich's win on Friday night pressured Schalke to win to stay even with the Bavarians and this they did on Saturday, beating Bremen 2-1. Scoreless after one half, Schalke went into the lead on a goal from Gerald Asamoah in the 47th minute.
Bremen equalized soon thereafter on a penalty kick but Ailton scored the gamewinner on a disputable no-call. Schalke's fans could celebrate. For Bremen's supporters they may have to live with the fact that their team will not defend the league title this year. They now stand nine points behind the league leaders, Bayern Munich and Schalke.
Stuttgart comes from behind to win
The Stuttgart logo is near the top of everyone's home tables
The only team within striking distance now is Stuttgart. They came from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat Mainz, 3-2. Stuttgart keeper Timo Hildebrand was the focus this past week because he expressed his desire to leave the club after the season. He was beaten in the 13th minute by Fabian Gerber as Mainz took a surprise lead.
It would prove to be the only goal scored in the first half in six matches this Saturday. 20 minutes into the second half though, Stuttgart was up 3-1. Mainz's keeper Wache scored an unlucky own goal, Aliaksandr Hleb put Stuttgart up 2-1 and Hleb set up Cacau's goal to go up 3-1. Mainz scored again at the end but lost their second game at home this season.
Stuttgart now has 34 points.
Clubs with tradition start off positive
The rest of the league must raise their level of play soon if it wants to have a say in the championship. Wolfsburg failed to do that on Saturday, losing at home 2-1 to Dortmund. It was an important win for Bert van Marwijk who had seen his side drop to within four points of the relegation zone.
The hero was newcomer Euzebiusz Smolarek. He came in as a sub in the second half and scored the go-ahead goal in the 55th minute. Jan Koller put Dortmund up 2-0. Argentinean defender Facundo Quiroga managed to score Wolfsburg's lone goal but it was not enough and Wolfsburg, league leaders for much of the first leg, now sit seven points behind the leaders.
Another team with a rich tradition, Kaiserslautern, hit the ground with their wheels spinning. They beat Nuremberg on the road, 3-1. That puts Kurt Jara's in 10th place. Nuremberg drops down to 13th and will have to start dealing with the relegation zone.
Mönchengladbach won at home, 1-0 against Arminia Bielefeld. Last place Freiburg traveled to 17th place Rostock and managed one positive thing, they did not lose. The two toothless squads failed to score and are now eight points away from a non-relegation spot.