15.03.2007: Schalke face new test

German Football
By German Football March 16, 2007 04:51

15.03.2007: Schalke face new test

Bundesliga leaders Schalke 04 need a win to steady their nerves when they host third-placed VfB Stuttgart on Saturday. Schalke have managed just two draws and two defeats from their last four matches, a run that has seen their lead cut from six points to three over second-placed Werder Bremen.

It has been almost 50 years since Schalke last won the championship and the team’s recent poor form has had German media cruelly speculating about them blowing another chance.

Schalke coach Mirko Slomka must once again do without Brazilian forward Lincoln, who has another three matches of suspension to serve after he punched Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Bernd Schneider last month. The good news is that Christian Pander, Gerald Asamoah and Gustavo Varela could all return to the squad after taking part in training this week.

Fullback Pander, who has not played this year because of an ankle injury, hopes to get at least an hour on Saturday. Striker Asamoah is also nearing full fitness after breaking his leg more than five months ago, while midfielder Varela could make his first appearance since Feb. 10 if his recovery from a knee injury continues.

Stuttgart hopes of climbing to within a point of the leaders will be hit by the absence of striker Mario Gomez, who tore knee ligaments in last weekend’s goalless draw against VfL Wolfsburg. Gomez is the Bundesliga’s leading scorer with 13 goals and could be out for six weeks.

Bayern Munich blew a chance to get back to within four points of Schalke when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Werder last Sunday. As it is, they remain six points behind Schalke in fourth and could be forced to play away at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday without goalkeeper and captain Oliver Kahn, who has a back injury.

‘If he isn’t back in training by Friday he won’t play,’ said Ottmar Hitzfeld, who returned as coach in February and is considering an offer to stay on next season after leading the side through to the Champions League quarter-finals. England midfielder Owen Hargreaves also missed out on training this week because of flu but Hitzfeld expects to have him fit for Saturday against relegation threatened Frankfurt.

Werder are not in action until Sunday after playing in the UEFA Cup in midweek, securing a place in the quarter-finals thanks to a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo. Werder face a tricky game at home to Mainz, who are the form team of the second half of the season with 19 points from eight games. Miroslav Klose missed the UEFA Cup win because of a back injury but the World Cup top scorer should be fit for Sunday.

German Football
By German Football March 16, 2007 04:51
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