Germany's Bundesliga returns to action on Saturday after a break for World Cup qualifying matches last weekend. Bremen, Hamburg and Schalke are all chasing Bayern, which is hoping to expand its early season lead.
Well, that's one way to stop Bayern
It'll only be the fourth match day for Germany's top-flight soccer league this season, and already everybody is trying to catch FC Bayern München. But the defending champions are currently only two points clear of three teams that have serious title ambitions this year: Werder Bremen, Hamburg SV, and Schalke 04.
All four clubs will be playing away this weekend, increasing the competition to come out on top. Bayern will travel to Bavarian rivals 1. FC Nürnberg, Bremen heads to 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Hamburg will take on 1. FSV Mainz 05 and Schalke will go to Bayern Leverkusen.
All of those match-ups are manageable for the visitors and Bayern in particular will have the motivation to show struggling Nürnberg who's boss. If Bayern win, it will be the team's 13th consecutive victory, breaking a 24-year-old Bundesliga record. Munich has won half of all the Bavarian derby held in Nuremberg, which will be hard pressed to keep the defending champions from at least taking a point home with them.
Rafael van der Vaart
Hamburg SV will have a harder time against Mainz, which won their first Bundesliga points by beating the northern club after being promoted to the top-flight. But Hamburg, with a strengthened squad and new ambition, has been in impressive form early this season. HSV's new Dutch star Rafael van der Vaart will almost certainly be raring to go after having a great match with his national side at the weekend.
Mainz, on the other hand, is wallowing at the bottom of the table. But the club has taken new hope from the arrival of Egyptian striker Mohamed Zidan on loan from Bremen. "I will show what I can do," Zidan said confidently after throwing his lot in with Mainz.
Bremen aims high
Keyplayer Saison 2005/06 Werder Bremen Thorsten Frings
Bremen certainly doesn't seem to miss him at the moment as they prepare to head to Kaiserslautern. Midfielder Torsten Frings has returned from injury and he knows his squad needs to get the away points to avoid falling too far behind his old club Bayern. "We have to win if we want to stay put up top," he said. Bremen is undefeated since losing 0-1 to Dortmund on May 8 last season. Their victory against Kaiserslautern on May 21 punched Bremen's ticket to the Champions League this year.
The last match for the top four clubs is Schalke 04 visiting Bayern Leverkusen. Normally, Leverkusen would be a tough nut to crack at home, but at the moment, the club is suffering a number of injuries. To make things worse, Roque Junior and Marko Babic are both suspended due to red cards. Schalke's Brazilian playmaker Lincoln will also be rejoining his side after his own suspension for spitting in the German Cup final in August.
All the matches this weekend:
Sept. 10, 2005 Bayer Leverkusen - Schalke 04
Sept. 10, 2005 Borussia Mönchengladbach - MSV Duisburg
Sept. 10, 2005 1. FC Kaiserslautern - Werder Bremen
Sept. 10, 2005 VfB Stuttgart - Arminia Bielefeld
Sept. 10, 2005 1. FSV Mainz 05 - Hamburger SV
Sept. 10, 2005 Hannover 96 - Eintracht Frankfurt
Sept. 10, 2005 1. FC Nürnberg - Bayern München
Sept. 11, 2005 Hertha BSC Berlin - VfL Wolfsburg
Sept. 11, 2005 Borussia Dortmund - 1. FC Köln