Championship Hunters Follow Wolf Tracks | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 24.09.2004
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Championship Hunters Follow Wolf Tracks

VfL Wolfsburg sit atop the Bundesliga ahead of the weekend's games with an angry pack of championship hunters eager to catch up with wins in Week Six.


Wolfsburg are setting the pace in Week Six with a hungry pack trailing

After the mid-week DFB Cup action, league business gets underway again in Week Six of the Bundesliga. Some of the clubs taking to the field of play this weekend will be resigned to the fact that the league now offers their only opportunity for silverware this season after crashing out of the German league cup and being excluded from any European adventures.

Two clubs going strongly in the DFB Cup meet on Saturday in Munich's Olympic Stadium. Bayern, fresh from overcoming a plucky Osnabrück side on Wednesday, meet Bochum's cup conquerors SC Freiburg. Munich are inching their way up the league table with spluttering performances which are beginning to hint at more rhythmic displays to come.

Freiburg, sitting comfortably placed but just off the pace in two places behind the Bavarian giants in eighth, will take heart from their mid-week victory and fancy their chances on Saturday. A win for either team will left them into the European contention placings.

After losing against Freiburg in the cup, Bochum will not be too happy about facing a rejuvenated Werder Bremen side at home. The champions arrive at the Ruhrstadion on the back of a well-fought DFB Cup win over Bayer Leverkusen and a 3-0 win again Hanover in the league in Week Five. Bremen sit ominously in third, just three points off the summit while Bochum's habit of drawing matches so far has left stalled in seventh.

Royal Blues on the up

Schalke's recovery may continue against Hanover 96 on Saturday. The Royal Blues have won their last three games in all competitions since the departure of coach Jupp Heynckes and kept their nerve to secure a thrilling victory on penalties against Kaiserslautern in the cup after drawing 4-4 at the end of extra time. The 3-2 league win against Borussia Mönchengladbach last week will also have improved Schalke's spirits as well as their league position, moving them away from the relegation zone to 12th.

Hanover are having a less happy time of things, despite scraping through on penalties in the cup against Energie Cottbus. Anything resembling league form has so far evaded them and loss to Bremen last week secured their position on the bottom rung.

There were no cup distractions for Borussia Mönchengladbach in mid-week. Their shock defeat against Bayern Munich Amateurs in the first round left them free this week to plot the downfall of Hansa Rostock at the Borussia Park this Saturday. Mönchengladbach's cup defeat was compounded by the 3-2 league reverse at Schalke last week and the initial winning ways now seem to have been a flash in the pan.

'Gladbach in 13th place would do well to be wary of Rostock, two places beneath them, who will be buoyed by a cup victory over Köln on Wednesday. However, Rostock's league performances have been equally as woeful as Mönchengladbach's and both teams will hope to take advantage of these dips in form.

High-flying Wolves a difficult challenge

Kaiserslautern will be hoping that the tiring and deflating defeat against Schalke in the cup will not lay them too low as current surprise league leaders VfL Wolfsburg are their hosts this weekend. Wolfsburg rich seam of good form has seen them rise to the summit on the back of some impressive wins.

Ten places separate the league leaders from their visitors. Kaiserslautern have lifted themselves from the depths of the Bundesliga of late with some crucial results but time will tell if they have recovered enough to put the brakes on Wolfsburg's extremely early break for the finishing line.

Lying just a point behind Wolfsburg in second place are the walking wounded of VfB Stuttgart. Mathias Sammer's relatively small squad is currently drawing on all their reserves after being hit by crucial injuries. Star striker Kevin Kuranyi is the latest long-term victim after being brutally mugged by a career threatening tackle in Hungary during last week's UEFA clash with Ujpest.

Walking wounded brace for Bayer backlash

Stuttgart face Bayer Leverkusen in the Daimler stadium on Saturday, a different kind of wounded team. Leverkusen have been frustratingly robbed of results in recent games after showing truly championship winning form. They will want to take advantage of Stuttgart's depleted team to get their marauding title challenge back on track.

Nuremberg's solid start to the season was disrupted in mid-week by a cup defeat at the hands of second division Ahlen but will be hoping to keep the pressure on at the top end of the Bundesliga with a win over Arminia Bielefeld at home on Saturday. Nuremberg are currently suffering from the after-effects of altitude after holding a lofty third place spot for a couple of weeks. Not exactly back to earth but certainly more grounded in ninth, they'll be expected to climb the heights again against second from bottom Bielefeld, despite Arminia's 4-2 cup win against Köln Amateurs in mid-week.

Strong coffee prescribed for Hamburg-Berlin game

Sunday's game includes the clash between two clubs with little else to play for but the league and whose chances in that competition have so far been heavily cut by poor performances. Hamburg SV and Hertha Berlin clash in the northern port city with little -- except for those with team allegiances -- to get excited about.

Berlin have so far lacked any flair and inspiration despite the talent on tap in the Hertha side while Hamburg seem magnetically drawn to the bottom of the division despite their best efforts to escape the relegation tractor beam. Two points separate the two clubs lying in 14th and 16th spot respectively and wins for either would be gasps of air in a stormy sea.

The other Sunday game sees FSV Mainz play host to Borussia Dortmund. Mainz are the surprise package so far in the Bundesliga in their first season in the top flight. While in recent games they have lost a little momentum, a fifth place position for a newly promoted side which has never been in the top league is more than a respectable start.

Dortmund under-performing again

How Dortmund must wish for something of what Mainz have going. Again, the underachievers of the top flight are showing flashes of their brilliance but are failing to capitalize when a killer touch is needed. The last gasp draw with Bayern Munich last week is a case in point. Dortmund had the game sewn up but came apart at the seams in the last two minutes. Tenth place reflects BVB's inconsistent season to date.

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