5 things to know about the Bundesliga
BERLIN (AP) - Schalke's Ruhr derby with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday is undoubtedly the highlight of the Bundesliga's 10th round of games. League leader Bayern Munich hosts Hertha Berlin, which seems as surprised as anyone to be fourth, and relegation-threatened Nuremberg makes a fresh start at Stuttgart. Here are five things to know ahead of the weekend:
SCHALKE UNDER PRESSURE
Schalke won both Ruhr derbies last season, giving visiting Dortmund added incentive to set the record straight.
''To lose two derbies in a row is anything but nice. We'd like to win one again and really knock one out on Saturday,'' said Dortmund midfielder Sven Bender.
The visitors have been given a boost by their smash-and-grab 2-1 win at Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday, while Schalke lost 3-0 to Chelsea for the ignominy of the club's biggest home defeat in the competition. A second defeat in succession to the club's biggest rival would see Schalke coach Jens Keller coming under increasing pressure.
Schalke midfielder Marco Hoeger has been ruled out for the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage and striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is out until the winter break. In contrast, Dortmund's injury concerns seem to be receding after the club's best start to a Bundesliga season. Juergen Klopp's side is already eight points clear of Schalke. An 11-point gap after 10 games would be hard to stomach for the Schalke supporters.
NUREMBERG'S NEW START
Gertjan Verbeek makes his debut as Nuremberg coach in Stuttgart on Friday. The Dutchman has already enamored himself by declaring he ''fell in love with the club'' at his presentation on Tuesday. The 51-year-old Verbeek, who previously enjoyed success with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar before falling out with the players, has been appointed to steer Nuremberg out of the relegation zone following the sacking of Michael Wiesinger.
''Of course I have my own ideas. But it always depends on the quality of the players,'' Verbeek said.
Eight of Nuremberg's nine German championships came before the Bundesliga was formed in 1963.
BAYERN EYEING RECORD
Defending champion Bayern, which enjoyed an easy 5-0 win over Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Wednesday, is closing in on Hamburger SV's record 36-match run without defeat set in 1983. Bayern is unbeaten in 34 successive league games and won't be expected to slip up at home to Hertha, despite the promoted side's fine start. Franck Ribery did not play last week due to an ankle injury but produced a man of the match performance against Plzen and the Frenchman can set a new Bundesliga record of playing in 39 straight games without defeat if he features on Saturday. Ribery currently shares the record with Hamburg's Holger Hieronymus.
SPECTER OF `GHOST GOAL' HANGING OVER LEVERKUSEN
Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling was relieved to score two goals without controversy in his side's 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, following the furor over his ''ghost goal'' through a hole in the side-netting against Hoffenheim last Friday.
''Of course we looked very closely to see if it was in,'' Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller said, referring to the first goal.
Bild captured the sense of relief around the BayArena stadium: ''Kiessling also scores without a hole! And even two goals.''
Kiessling thanked fans afterward for their support on his Facebook page. ''I'm lost for words. It was so good what you did for me,'' the striker wrote.
Hoffenheim will learn Monday if its appeal for a replay is successful. Meanwhile the club has donated the infamous net for auction with the proceeds going to a children's charity.
With 10 goals in 14 games across all competitions, Kiessling will hope to continue his goal-scoring exploits - legitimately - against Augsburg on Saturday.
FREIBURG GATHERING NUTS
''The squirrel toils for nourishment,'' said Freiburg coach Christian Streich last weekend after the third draw from four Bundesliga games left his side waiting for its first win of the season. Freiburg, second from bottom, is paying the price for its remarkable success last season, when the modest club finished fifth and qualified for the Europa League. After losing a host of important players in the offseason, Freiburg is finding it difficult to incorporate new players and cope with the strain of two competitions.
Freiburg was playing Estoril Praia in the Europa League on Thursday, when a win would give Streich's side confidence for the games ahead. Freiburg had never started without a win in nine Bundesliga games. Saturday's visitors from Hamburg appear to have overcome their poor start with 10 goals in three games since Bert van Marwijk took over as coach.
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