Wolves Open up Lead in Championship Race | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 04.11.2004
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Wolves Open up Lead in Championship Race

The close Bundesliga title race is beginning to fracture. Wolfsburg have an increasing, but still narrow, lead over their nearest rivals ahead of Week Twelve with many others involved in mini struggles within the league.


There's daylight between Wolfsburg and their nearest rivals at the top

The Bundesliga gets back to business after various mid-week European adventures this weekend. Week Twelve poses many questions for the teams contesting the top spots and offers those in the basement the chance to turn around a disappointing season to date.

Still out in front and putting more daylight between themselves and their closest rivals are the Wolves of Wolfsburg. The surprise league leaders showed their mettle last Saturday when they came back from two goals down to defeat Mainz 05 4-3. Bulgarian international Martin Petrov scored an incredible four goals, including two penalties, for the Wolves and their tails will be up when they travel to 12th place Nuremberg this week.

Nuremberg managed to stay awake long enough in a tedious game at Hansa Rostock on Saturday to win 2-0 and consign their opponents to the bottom of the league, handing them a dubious record as they did so. With six straight home defeats, Rostock made Bundesliga history and tipped over the edge into an official crisis.

Rostock may not fair any better when they take the long journey from the very north of Germany to the south for their visit to VfB Stuttgart this weekend. Stuttgart, who looked like championship thoroughbreds in a field of stumbling ponies just three weeks ago, have long since waved goodbye to their unbeaten record and are on a losing streak themselves.

Second placed Schlake keep the heat on

Stuttgart fell victim to Schalke 04 manager Ralf Rangnick's resurgent title contenders in a scorcher of a match in Gelsenkirchen, losing 3-2 to the Royal Blues. Brazilian Ailton scored after just forty seconds to register his third goal in as many matches as Schalke 04 recorded their fifth straight league win. After going the first eight games unbeaten Stuttgart have now lost three in a row.

Schalke travel to Hamburg on Sunday to face an HSV side on a slow rise out of the drop zone. Hamburg held the champions Werder Bremen to 1-1 draw on Saturday, the latest in a run of more encouraging results the team have enjoyed after jettisoning Klaus Toppmöller as coach.

Bremen, fresh from thrashing Anderlecht 5-1 in the Champions League, travel to the capital to take on Hertha Berlin, another side on the rise after a stuttering start to the current campaign.

The champions will feel confident after their European workout but will find a Berlin side who have found their scoring touch. Hertha put Freiburg to the sword last week in a 3-1 away win which consolidated Berlin's ninth position.

Freiburg in freefall

Freiburg have seen a positive start to the new season turn into a disaster. From being up there in the top five at the start of the campaign, Freiburg have slowly but surely slipped to second from bottom. The southerners travel to Leverkusen to face a potentially fired up Bayer team out for revenge after losing to Dortmund last weekend.

However, the 1-1 draw which put AS Roma out of the Champions League in midweek and helped their own chances of qualification could help Leverkusen regain the more positive side of their spluttering form.

Borussia Dortmund notched their first home win of the season over Leverkusen in the 1-0 defeat, thanks to Brazilian Ewerthon who scored the only goal after 41 minutes. The victory was a respite from the freefall the heavily in-debt have been suffering of late and it helped BVB hang on to 11th spot. The team immediately above them, Arminia Bielefeld, play host on Saturday, a week after losing 2-1 to Kaiserslautern.

Jara gets stay of execution

The victory gave Kaiserslautern boss Kurt Jara another stay of execution after the dramatic comeback win over Bielefeld. Substitute Selim Teber cancelled out Delron Buckley's 79th minute opener and struck a late winner to move Kaiserslautern off the bottom spot and to give their under-fire boss some breathing space.

Kaiserslautern have the opportunity to get further out of trouble at the expense of a side in danger of going further in the opposite direction. Bochum in 15th place lost again on Saturday, going down 3-0 to Hanover in a defeat that extended a miserable run and increased the club's worst start ever to a Bundesliga campaign.

Hanover are enjoying life in the lofty heights of fourth place ahead of their clash with faltering giants Bayern Munich on Saturday. The 3-0 win at home to Bochum continued their current renaissance and lifted them up to within four points of the summit. It is conceivable, given their opponents loss of form of late, that Hanover could keep the unexpected pressure on with another victory in Week Twelve.

Spluttering Bavarian giants risk disaster

Bayern suffered a major setback when they fell to a shock 2-0 away defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday. Bayern's third defeat of the campaign means they slipped to fifth, four points adrift of leaders Wolfsburg. On top of that, a 1-0 loss at home to Juventus in the Champions League left Bayern's European ambitions on a knife edge.

Munich will be without Brazilian World Cup winner Lucio on Saturday after he was dismissed in the second half of last week's league game for stomping on Czech opponent Vaclav Sverkos, capping a miserable afternoon for Felix Magath's Bavarian outfit.

Playing Bayern in your first match in charge is not ideal but interim Borussia Mönchengladbach chief Horst Koppel, who stepped in to replace Holger Fach when he was sacked on Wednesday, kept a cool head -- and goals from Marcelo Pletsch and Joris van Hout made his job easier. His next match in charge will be away at FSV Mainz.

Plucky Mainz off the pace

Mainz have seen their own season hit a lull after pushing for the top spots for the first two months. Back-to-back defeats have seen the Reds slip to seventh and the spirited but ultimately futile tussle with the Wolves last week.

The 4-3 defeat may have dented their chances of claiming an improbable first Bundesliga title but it at least showed they have the scoring ability, something they will want to exploit against 'Gladbach on Saturday if they're not to slip further out of contention.

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