Bundesliga preview: Schalke tested in Bavaria
By Football News
Schalke will have to overcome the Bundesliga's toughest test to get their season back on track as they prepare to face Bayern Munich.
Installed as one of the favourites to win the German title this season after a quality start to their campaign, the Gelsenkirchen side have slumped badly in recent months, winning just one of their last nine matches to drop to sixth on the table.
Just four weeks into his term as interim Schalke coach, Jens Keller, is struggling for support after the club lost to bottom side Greuther Furth last weekend.
Supporters would be forgiven for believing that fate was against their club, though, after their last result.
Drawing 1-1, Raffael came within a whisker of scoring a late winner. But when his shot ricocheted off the post, it gave Greuther Furth the opportunity to score the decider, giving the club just their second win of the season.
With Schalke's Champions League ambitions falling increasingly by the wayside, the club will be looking to bounce back but doing so against leaders Bayern may prove too much for Keller's out-of-form squad.
If Bayern were to lose, it would maintain second-placed Borussia Dortmund's slim chances of defending their title from last season.
With 11 wins compared to Bayern's 16, Dortmund are 12 points off the pace with 14 matches to go.
Dortmund, however, face a tricky assignment against Hamburg SV after the club endured a torrid battle with third-placed Bayer Leverkusen last weekend.
In a dramatic encounter, Borussia won their fourth game from their past five matches as Robert Lewandowski delivered a 63rd-minute winner.
However, Dortmund endured a tough task holding onto the lead with young Australian goalkeeper Mitchel Langerak credited with delivering the three points as he denied Bayer's Stefan Kiessling from point -blank range.
But having leapfrogged Bayer (third) into second on the table, Borussia will be looking to maintain their recent run of form against ninth-placed Hamburg.
Hamburg is one of several mid-tier clubs fighting for Europa League places over the next 14 matches.
Fifth-placed Mainz is on 30 points but just seven points separate them and 15th-placed Wolfsburg, meaning there is plenty of room for movement for mid-table club.
Within that framework, clubs such as Wolfsburg will be looking to make the most of their clash with last-placed Greuther Furth, while fellow relegation strugglers Augsburg (17th) take on Mainz on Sunday and 16th-placed Hoffenheim will battle with Hannover.
In other matches, Bayer travel to Borussia Monchengladbach, 12th-placed Stuttgart are at home to Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt entertain Nurnberg while, on Sunday, Freiburg host Fortuna Dusselfdorf.