Bundesliga Preview: Struggling Leverkusen face biggest test
By Football News
All eyes will be on Bayer Leverkusen as they look to halt their winless Bundesliga run with a trip to Bayern Munich on Saturday.
Sami Hyypia's men have a UEFA Champions League tie to negotiate against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday but their exit from the European competition was all but sealed by a 4-0 home loss to the Ligue 1 powerhouse in the first leg.
Hence, their clash with Bayern should be their main focus of the week, especially seeing their hold on a group-stage spot for next season's Champions League is in doubt after collecting just one point from their past four fixtures.
Form is not the only thing heaping pressure on Bayer, with heavy speculation Hyypia may be on borrowed time at the BayArena club.
Leverkusen's poor run leaves them third, level on 44 points with fourth-placed Schalke, and only five clear of fifth side Wolfsburg.
Their opponents on Saturday, however, have no such concerns, as Bayern Munich have a 20-point lead atop the table.
Pep Guardiola's side also advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday, surpassing Arsenal 3-1 on aggregate, as they attempt to become the first side since AC Milan in 1989-90 to defend the European cup.
In the lone Friday clash, Schalke can provisionally send Leverkusen into fourth, as they travel to sixth-placed Augsburg.
Schalke can capitalise on Augsburg's recent struggles at home in the league, which has seen Markus Weinzierl's men lose to Nuremberg 1-0 and draw 1-1 with Hannover.
Meanwhile, Schalke had won their past two league trips - 3-0 at Hamburg, and 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen - before running into heavyweights Bayern, who dealt them a 5-1 loss at the Allianz Arena.
On Saturday, second side Borussia Dortmund will continue their aim to sew up a top-four spot when they host Borussia Monchengladbach.
Dortmund are four points clear of Leverkusen in third, and can heap more misery on Gladbach, who have not won a league clash in nine matches.
Werder Bremen welcome Stuttgart into their backyard, with the latter hovering mere goal difference above the drop zone, while Hoffenheim and Mainz do battle.
Stuttgart sacked Thomas Schneider as head coach after their 2-2 draw versus bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig last week with Huub Stevens taking over.
Braunschweig host out-of-form Wolfsburg, who sit fifth despite consecutive losses, while Hertha Berlin can continue their impressive promotion season when they host fellow mid-table side Hannover 96.
On Sunday, Hamburg host fellow strugglers Nuremberg in a relegation six-pointer, while Eintracht Frankfurt can stretch their unbeaten streak past three games when they entertain second-last Freiburg.