Munich - The possible conclusion of the Bundesliga title race may be the main talking point of Matchday 28's action, but the battle for European qualification is still a long way from over.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen - VfL Wolfsburg
Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04 can tighten their grip on the UEFA Champions League places, while Borussia Mönchengladbach can put themselves back in contention for the Europa League. bundesliga.com previews the Saturday afternoon kick-offs (15.30 CET)...
Leverkusen seem to be back in track after an emphatic derby win in Düsseldorf on Matchday 27, in which Andre Schürrle and the club's leading scorer Stefan Kießling both hit a brace. With seven games remaining, they have a six-point lead over FC Schalke 04 in fourth and look set to seal a return to the UEFA Champions League.
Revenge could be one of their chief motivating factors against Wolfsburg, having been beaten by the Wolves in both the league and this season. “We’re a strong team at home and we have to be again this weekend in order to keep ourselves in the mix,” said head coach Sami Hyypiä.
Keeping the run going
Wolfsburg are on a run of three games undefeated after draws against 1. FC Nuremberg and Fortuna Düsseldorf and a win in Freiburg.
Head coach Dieter Hecking stressed the need to extend that streak in Leverkusen. “We’re unbeaten in three and that hasn’t happened for the club too often this season,” said the 48-year-old. “We want to do everything we can to keep that sequence going. We’ll need a concentrated performance for the entire 90 minutes.”
Werder Bremen - FC Schalke 04
For 14th-placed Werder Bremen, the biggest problem this season has been consistency, or the lack thereof. In February, Thomas Schaaf’s men won consecutive league games for the first time since November 2011, and since then have gone six matches without a victory, rescuing a draw against Greuther Fürth in their last home game.
Schalke are a different proposition entirely, though, as Schaaf is well aware. “They're a compact side with options up front, and they come forward quickly when they win the ball. We will need to work hard for one another," said the veteran strategist.
Expecting the unexpected
The Royal Blues, for their part, will no doubt travel to the Weserstadion full of confidence. They produced a patient and determined display to record a 3-0 win over Hoffenheim in their last game, with previously goal-shy Teemu Pukki scoring and January loan signing Raffael netting his first effort for the club.
Nevertheless, head coach Jens Keller was swift to urge caution. “They're dangerous in attack and they’re a difficult side to predict. Of course we wouldn’t say no to a repeat of the 4-1 scoreline in Wolfsburg, but we know this game will be hard work,” said the 42-year-old, whose side can climb to 45 points with a win.
Borussia Mönchengladbach - Greuther Fürth
The hosts may be eager for a return to the European stage, but their league-high record of 11 draws is threatening to derail those ambitions. The Foals' last two results, a 1-0 win over Hannover followed by a 2-0 loss in Freiburg, have been characteristic of the club's stop-start campaign.
They will certainly fancy their chances of victory against bottom club Greuther Fürth, although head coach Lucien Favre is taking nothing for granted: “It'll be difficult to find the spaces against them, but obviously we want to win the game.”
Fürth suffered their first defeat under recently appointed head coach Frank Kramer last weekend, losing 3-2 against Eintracht Frankfurt. Though they may be nine points adrift of even the relegation play-off place, their recent displays, particularly their last match on the road - a 2-2 draw in Bremen - have been encouraging.
“It’s another big game for us," said Kramer. "Borussia are a team that play extremely well together and have some good individual players up front. It'll be a good challenge for us."