German teams prepare for CL showdowns in style | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 04.03.2013
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German teams prepare for CL showdowns in style

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.

Borussia Dortmund's Julian Schieber (L), Robert Lewandowski (C) and Kevin Grosskreutz celebrate a goal against Hanover 96 during their German first division Bundesliga soccer match in Dortmund March 2, 2013. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender (GERMANY - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) DFL RULES TO LIMIT THE ONLINE USAGE DURING MATCH TIME TO 15 PICTURES PER GAME. IMAGE SEQUENCES TO SIMULATE VIDEO IS NOT ALLOWED AT ANY TIME. FOR FURTHER QUERIES PLEASE CONTACT DFL DIRECTLY AT + 49 69 650050

Fußball Bundesliga 24. Spieltag Borussia Dortmund Hannover 96

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.

Mario Gomez +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Bayern are virtually assured of a quarter final place

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.

Perfect preparation

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.

Bildnummer: 12925574 Datum: 02.03.2013 Copyright: imago/Contrast Julian Draxler / Einzelbild / Aktion / VfL Wolfsburg - FC Schalke 04 / 02.03.2013 / / Fußball Fussball / Volkswagen Arena Wolfsburg / Herren / DFL / Bundesliga / Saison 2012/2013 / ; Fussball GER BL 2012 2013 xcb x0x 2013 quer premiumd Fußball Fussball DFL Bundesliga Saison 12/13 2012/2013 V Image number 12925574 date 02 03 2013 Copyright imago Contrast Julian Draxler Single Action shot VfL Wolfsburg FC Schalke 04 02 03 2013 Football Football Volkswagen Arena Wolfsburg men DFL Bundesliga Season 2012 2013 Football ger BL 2012 2013 x0x 2013 horizontal premiumd Football Football DFL Bundesliga Season 12 13 2012 2013 v

Schalke have the toughest task, but suddenly look confident

Pitfalls

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.

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