Leaders Bayern told to raise game
Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has piled the pressure on the Bundesliga leaders by insisting they raise their game ahead of Saturday's visit of Hanover 96 despite holding an eight-point lead.
With a round of Bundesliga matches also being held in midweek, Bayern face Hanover, then Freiburg on Wednesday before hosting defending champions Dortmund next Saturday, Rummenigge has warned his team against taking their foot off the pedal.
"There's too much playing for a result in my opinion. We need to get into gear and hit the gas again," said Rummenigge.
"We have a challenging week ahead of us with the matches against Hanover, Freiburg and Dortmund. We have to be alert and open the throttle.
"We need to rediscover the form which has made so strong and taken us so far ahead in the Bundesliga table."
Despite extending their lead to eight points with a 1-1 draw at Nuremberg last Saturday, and qualifying for the knock-out phase of the Champions League by drawing at Valencia, Rummenigge is unhappy both results came against 10 men.
"If you have an extra man for an hour but end up being relieved that it finished 1-1, it's not a satisfactory situation," said Rummenigge.
At the same stage last season Bayern had a five-point lead over eventual champions Dortmund, but still slipped up.
Bayern now have Germany striker Mario Gomez back in the squad after three months out following ankle surgery and he made his first appearance in a Munich shirt at Valencia since the Champions League final.
"He's the kind of player who is always dangerous and can always come up with a goal, even when he's not 100 percent fit," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.
With Schalke and Dortmund having also qualified for the Champions League's knock-out phase in midweek, the Royal Blues, second in the table, host third-placed Eintracht Frankfurt.
Japan right-back Atsuto Uchida is expected to return to Schalke's starting side having recovered from injury, while captain Benedikt Hoewedes will move into the centre-back role for the suspended Kyriakos Papadopoulos.
Frankfurt have the league's joint top-scorer in their midfield with Alexander Meier having scored nine in 12 games.
Midtable Mainz host Dortmund on Saturday and expect defensive midfielder Sven Bender in the team despite suffering a suspected broken nose in their Champions League win at Ajax on Wednesday having taken an elbow in the face.
Bender is expected to play with a protective mask.
Dortmund are fourth in the Bundesliga – nine points behind leaders Bayern Munich – while Mainz are eighth.
Fifth-placed Leverkusen are at Hoffenheim on Sunday having risen up the league with just one defeat – a shock 3-1 loss at Wolfsburg a fortnight ago – blotting their copybook.
Fortuna Duesseldorf v Hamburg
Bayern Munich v Hanover 96
Schalke 04 v Eintracht Frankfurt
VfL Wolfsburg v Werder Bremen
Mainz 05 v Borussia Dortmund
Greuther Fuerth v Nurmberg
Freiburg v VfB Stuttgart
Hoffenheim v Bayer Leverkusen
Augsburg v Borussia M'gladbach