Slumping Schalke at Bayern, Dortmund vs. Hamburg
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -Defending champion Borussia Dortmund has climbed to second place and all it can do now is hope for a run of blunders by runaway Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich.
That probably is wishful thinking with Bayern 12 points ahead, but Dortmund has been doing its part not to lose more ground. It beat Bayer Leverkusen last week to seize second place and has scored 11 goals in three wins since the season resumed. Nine of those goals have come inside the first 15 minutes, a Bundesliga record.
Juergen Klopp's team next hosts Hamburg, which ended Dortmund's 31-match unbeaten run with a 3-2 victory in September. Their matches produce the most goals on average in the Bundesliga and Hamburg will be seeking to withstand Dortmund's early pressure.
Bayern hosts slumping Schalke, also on Saturday.
Hamburg has won only once in its past seven games in Dortmund and that was in 2007 (3-0).
Dortmund has been distracted by German media reports that have linked its top striker Robert Lewandowski with a move to Bayern.
Lewandowski, who has 13 goals this season and was a key factor in Dortmund's consecutive titles and last season's domestic double, has another year on his contract. The Poland striker has delayed any decision on his future until the season is over. Dortmund could be tempted to accept a rich offer for Lewandowski, rather than have to let him go for free after next season.
But Dortmund denied a Sky Germany report that Lewandowski had been given permission to negotiate with other clubs.
"That's completely fictitious,'' sporting director Michael Zorc said.
Klopp said the speculation was "neither a problem for him (Lewandowski), nor for me.''
"What matters is where he is playing now and that's us,'' Klopp said.
Dortmund's Kevin Grosskreutz and Marcel Schmelzer are out injured, while Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Lukasz Piszczek and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller are also nursing various injuries. Defender Neven Subotic will be back in the squad after recovering from a calf injury.
Bayern has refused to comment on what it has described as rumors. If the club is indeed luring the striker, it could be seeking to weaken its toughest rival in the Bundesliga. But it could be creating another problem in its already star-studded lineup.
Germany striker Mario Gomez has been supplanted by Mario Mandzukic, who tops the league with 14 goals. Gomez has been unable to return to the starting lineup after coming back from ankle surgery in November. Veteran Claudio Pizarro is also a backup.
"We have three top-class strikers,'' Heynckes said.
In addition, winger Arjen Robben also appears deeply unhappy with his limited role in recent games. Coach Jupp Heynckes has been leaving the Dutchman on the bench, only sending him in as a late substitute. Robben stormed out of the locker room into the team bus in only minutes after last week's 3-0 win in Mainz.
Henyckes has a deep squad but has made few changes in recent matches. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has an ankle injury and could miss the match.
But the problems of Dortmund and Bayern pale in comparison to the fate of Schalke, which has won only one of its last seven matches. New coach Jens Keller has not gained the confidence of Schalke's fans.
The club started out seeking to gain a Champions League place for the second straight season, but has fallen from second to sixth and lost 2-1 last weekend to last-place Greuther Fuerth at home.
"We can forget the Champions League now,'' sporting director Horst Heldt said.
Schalke will be missing several players, including striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has an eye injury.
Leverkusen is two points behind Dortmund in third and will seek to avoid falling further behind at Borussia Moenchengladbach, which has not lost in its last seven Bundesliga matches.
Eintracht Frankfurt is coming off a 2-0 win in Hamburg behind goals from newly signed striker Srdjan Lakic, and a victory at home against Nuremberg would keep it on course for a place in Champions League qualifying, an amazing achievement for the promoted club.
Stuttgart will be seeking to end a four-match losing streak when it hosts Werder Bremen.
In other matches on Saturday, Hannover hosts Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg visits Greuther Fuerth. On Sunday, Augsburg hosts Mainz and Fortuna Duesseldorf travels to Freiburg. There are no matches on Friday.
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