All three German teams in the Champions League look very confident ahead of second legs of their last-16 fixtures. The teams have a good chance to progress, but there are still plenty of pitfalls.
The Bundesliga is rocking the Champions League. That's the message from the German media. It's only the second time that there have been three German representatives in the last 16 of the world's premier club competition, and should Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke all progress in the next two weeks, it would be unprecedented.
The last time this happened - in the 2004/2005 season - Leverkusen and Bremen were ignominiously dumped out at this stage, while Bayern went out to Chelsea in the next round. But this year, the stars seem to be aligning for the Germans - each has a more than realistic chance of progressing.
Bayern are more or less assured of their quarter-final berth after their demolition of Arsenal in the first leg, while Dortmund and Schalke both came back from their travels (to Shakhtar Donetsk and Galatasaray respectively) with handy draws, away goals included, to take into their home legs. Dortmund's showdown comes first, on Tuesday evening, before Bayern and Schalke play simultaneously the following Wednesday.
All three are also looking ominously confident in the league. The Bayern Munich juggernaut motored along on Sunday afternoon, albeit by way of a modest 1-0 victory over a lowly but determined Hoffenheim side. "It was a working victory," coach Jupp Heynckes said afterwards. "Not brilliant, not glamorous, but you get three points for that too."
Meanwhile Dortmund put their ignominious cup defeat to Bayern to bed with a classy 3-1 victory over Hannover. The star of the show was Robert Lewandowski, who returned from a two-match suspension - not to mention some shameless flirting with Bayern Munich - to score two goals.
Lewandowski's return made for an interesting sidenote. Should the prolific Pole indeed move to Munich, his replacement could well be a Hannoverian: Mame Diouf, about whom Dortmund Coach Jürgen Klopp said to broadcaster Sky before the game: "A very interesting player. We're looking on the striker market, and we've looked at Diouf now and then." There was even some encouragement for Dortmund fans bracing for Lewandowski's disappearance - the third goal was scored by Julian Schieber, a new arrival from Stuttgart.
But it was Schalke's narrative arc that has taken the sharpest turn in the past two weeks. Since their humiliation at the hands of Bayern last month, and their decline-turning-to-freefall in the past weeks in general, the Royal Blues have put together a three-match unbeaten run. The galvanizing effect of getting that 1-1 draw in Turkey can hardly be underestimated, and the confidence was palpable in their exhilarating 4-1 victory over Wolfsburg on Saturday.
But obviously this is no time for complacency. Both Shakhtar and Galatasaray still present serious challenges. The Turkish side, who suddenly became favorites for the tie when they signed Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder in January, are still easily good enough to score an away goal of their own.
Shakhtar, meanwhile, have the tougher task, as they need to score twice to have any hope of winning, but they can be encouraged by the defensive lapses shown by Dortmund against Bayern and Hannover. Central defender Mats Hummels' flu ruled him out of both of those matches, and Klopp will be desperate to have him back in the side on Tuesday night. His absence has been felt.
To add spice to proceedings, Schalke and Dortmund will face each other in the biggest of all the Rhineland derbies in the Bundesliga next Saturday.