Bayern Munich and Leverkusen are looking for their fifth straight league wins on Matchday 30. This would put Bayern closer to the Bundesliga title and help Leverkusen snatch third place from Hertha Berlin.
Nine points. That is all Bayern Munich need to clinch their fourth-straight Bundesliga title, a feat no club has ever achieved. Their new points goal only came about after Schalke, Bayern's guests on Saturday, held Borussia Dortmund to a 2-2 draw last Sunday, giving the frontrunners a seven-point gap at the top of the table. Pep Guardiola and Matthias Sammer, Bayern's coach and sporting director, only had one message to portray: It's not over yet.
"The players who think that they are already German champions will sit on the bench," Guardiola said in his press conference on Friday. "It is most important that I can convince the players that we are not the German champions. I am good at that. That is my job."
"We can't afford to give anything away," Sammer added. "Dortmund will not drop any more points. We have to stay alert."
Bayern, who beat Schalke 3-1 in the reverse fixture, have never taken so long to wrap up the Bundesliga title under Guardiola. They clinched the title on this matchday a year ago. Bayern have only dropped 12 points all season, but Dortmund are on course to score more points than any Bundesliga runner-up in history, thus keeping the Bavarians honest.
Schalke may be one of the most inconsistent clubs in Germany, but they have still taken points from games against Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund in the last three weeks. Though they are tied with Gladbach and Mainz on 45 points, they sit in seventh place behind both clubs due to their goal differencea. That said, the lack of a midweek distraction gives Schalke a fighters chance, one coach Andre Breitenreiter wants to take advantage of.
"We are outsiders, but we want to achieve a good result despite that," Breitenreiter said in his press conference on Thursday. "There's no point going there and trying to hide."
A fifth-straight win could see Roger Schmidt's Leverkusen one step closer to a Champions League return
Late Leverkusen lunge could land them in third
Consistent form has eluded several Bundesliga clubs this season, but solidity has finally found its way to Leverkusen. Since the Werkself returned from a disappointing 2-0 defeat in the Europa League to Villarreal, they have not dropped a point or conceded a goal. Four straight Bundesliga victories have shot them back into fourth place, the first time they have been in the top-four since February.
If they plan to stay in the Champions League picture, they will have to best their Bundesliga bugaboos, Eintracht Frankfurt. Though the Eagles face relegation, they will take comfort in the fact they have split the fixture against Leverkusen over the past seven meetings - three wins, three losses and a draw. Frankfurt, under the new leadership of Nico Kovac, will be fighting hard for their Bundesliga lives, and even high-flying Leverkusen could struggle to deal with the desperation.
Leverkusen will also have to overcome their lack of squad depth currently in defense. Andre Ramalho, who had taken the spot of the injured Ömer Toprak, will have to serve a yellow card suspension. Wendell will have to sit out as well; he got his marching orders for a second bookable offense late in the game against Cologne. Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt will therefore have to rely on a lot of young defenders, which could include another appearance for 19-year-old midfielder-turned-defender Benjamin Henrichs.
Hertha Berlin will be visiting up-swinging Hoffenheim following the capital club's draw with Hannover last week. The opportunity may be there for Leverkusen to finally push Hertha out third place, but as we have seen in recent weeks with Gladbach and Schalke, the Bundesliga's Champions League hopefuls do not always take the chances that are given them.
Bundesliga Matchday 30
Hannover vs. Gladbach (Friday)
Leverkusen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday afternoon)
Augsburg vs. Stuttgart
Bremen vs. Wolfsburg
Hoffenheim vs. Hertha Berlin
Darmstadt vs. Ingolstadt
Bayern Munich vs. Schalke (Saturday afternoon)
Dortmund vs. Hamburg (Sunday afternoon)
Mainz vs. Cologne (Sunday evening)