Hot-shots Gomez, Podolski set to clash
Germany strikers Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski will go head-to-head on Friday when Cologne take on Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on the final German league weekend of 2011.
Cologne striker Podolski is in impressive form with five goals in his last three league games and has netted 14 times this season, including the equaliser in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Mainz.
Bayern's Gomez is the league's top scorer with 15 goals in 15 league games, including a brace in last Sunday's 2-1 win at Stuttgart which left Bayern three points clear at the top of the table.
Both will be looking to add to their tally at Munich's Allianz Arena.
Podolski, who has a contract until 2013, has been at the centre of a media frenzy here since Schalke said last Saturday they are interested in signing him, with Cologne eager for him to sign an extension in the winter break.
With 95 caps to his name, former Bayern man Podolski comes with a wealth of experience and while critics have said he lacks consistency, his recent goal record speaks for itself and Bayern's Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer says he is a threat.
"It's important we get a grip on him on Friday," said Neuer.
"He's a quick player - with or without the ball.
"I know from training with the Germany team that he can do when he gets the chance with the ball on his left foot. He has got a very good shot."
Podolski's goals have kept Cologne in mid-table and, according to his coach coach Stale Solbakken, he is "playing the best football of his career" with the guests out to upset Bayern's Christmas celebrations.
"As we have tired to do in the past, we will try to annoy the Bavarians as we have done in recent years," said Podolski with a grin.
Cologne got under Bayern's skin in February when they enjoyed a 3-2 win over Munich at home and Podolski's team earned a goalless draw in September 2010 on their last trip to Munich.
Gomez is enjoying a purple patch, but having been the victim of goal droughts in the past, is taking nothing for granted.
"If I did not score in a two week period, then I hear talk of a mini crisis," said the 25-year-old.
"If I score again, then there is talk of breaking records.
"Right now, things are going well and I am playing in front of a very good team. Scoring goals is my job."
Bayern find out who they will face in the knock-out stages of the Champions League next year when the draw is made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Friday.
But while Manchester United-slayers Basel, Zenit St Petersburg or Olympique Marseille could lie in wait, Cologne is the main concern for now.
Bayern must wait to see if they will have France winger Franck Ribery available after he damaged a thigh muscle at Stuttgart last weekend.
Second-placed Borussia Dortmund are at bottom side Freiburg on Saturday without teenage midfielder Mario Goetze, who pulled a hamstring in last weekend's home draw with Kaiserslautern.
The defending champions expect to welcome back captain Sebastian Kehl after he was kicked in the face against Marseille in last week's Champions League game.
Schalke, third in the league are at home to fifth-placed Werder Bremen in a key battle on Saturday night.
The Royal Blues left both strikers Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, as well as several first choice players, out of their trip to Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday in the Europa League and should be fresh against Bremen.
Schalke coach Huub Stevens sat out the trip after news from Holland that his elderly mother had been taken ill.
The Bundesliga breaks for winter on Sunday and resumes again on Friday January 20 when Borussia Moenchengladbach host Bayern.
Bayern Munich v Cologne
Bayer Leverkusen v Nuremberg
Hamburg v Augsburg
Freiburg v Borussia Dortmund
Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin
VfL Wolfsburg v VfB Stuttgart
Schalke 04 v Werder Bremen
Kaiserslautern v Hanover 96
Borussia M'gladbach v Mainz 05
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