Bayern hosts Moenchengladbach in Bundesliga
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — After the disappointment of the Champions League, the Bundesliga returns with a pair of matches that could decide who will be in the elite competition next season.
Bayern Munich, which predictably was the only Bundesliga side to make the quarterfinals, hosts Borussia Moenchengladbach, while Schalke takes on Bayer Leverkusen.
Aside for faraway leader Bayern, the other three clubs are striving for at least third place, which guarantees a direct slot in the Champions League. The fourth-place finisher will have to qualify. Moenchengladbach is now third, two points ahead of Leverkusen and five ahead of Schalke.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s matches:
Bayern’s 20-point gap over Moenchengladbach takes away some of the edge in a match between the leader and the No. 3 team.
Bayern is on a six-match winning streak (with a 27-2 goal difference), while Moenchengladbach is undefeated in its last five matches.
With nine matches remaining, Bayern has an 11-point lead over Wolfsburg, which seems safe in second with a nine-point advantage over Moenchengladbach.
Arjen Robben is ready to return after a pinched nerve in his back forced him to miss last week’s 4-0 win in Bremen.
With 17 goals, Robben is Bayern’s top scorer this season.
“The best weeks of the season are now coming, I am really looking forward to them,” Robben said. “We are ready for the finish to the season.”
Bayern is still on target for three trophies — the Bundesliga championship has all but been retained and Pep Guardiola’s team is also chasing the German Cup and the Champions League titles.
“The real challenges are still ahead of us,” Robben said.
Schalke and Leverkusen were both losers in the Champions League and can hardly afford to lose their match on Saturday. Leverkusen had its five-match winning run ended by Atletico Madrid in a penalty shootout.
“It was a very exhausting match, we have to put it behind is,” Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt said.
Schalke is already three points behind Leverkusen in fifth and a loss could blow its Champions League hopes. Schalke needs the income from the lucrative competition to keep its big and expensive squad.
Stuttgart is at the bottom, five points from safety, and desperately needs to beat Eintracht Frankfurt at home. In Frankfurt, Stuttgart celebrated one of its four victories of the season, winning 5-4 in a wild match after trailing twice.
Coach Huub Stevens, who saved Stuttgart from relegation last season in the last 10 matches, seems to be having a much tougher time this season. Stuttgart is winless in nine matches and has three losses and one draw in its last four at home.
But Eintracht is not comfortable away from home and has won only two of its last 15 matches against Stuttgart.