Crisis talk in Bayern as Schalke loom
In the wake of their shock defeat in Basel, Bayern Munich need to beat title rivals Schalke 04 on Sunday to ease their growing crisis and bridge the gap behind German league leaders Dortmund.
Having already knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League, FC Basel added Bayern's scalp on Wednesday as a late goal sealed their 1-0 win in the Round of 16 first-leg with the return leg in Munich in a fortnight.
The Bavarians have claimed just three wins in their last seven games and slipped from top to third in the German league, while their Champions League progress this season is far from assured.
The arrival of fourth-placed Schalke, who are just a point behind Bayern, will test fragile confidence and the hosts need a good result plus a strong performance at Munich's Allianz Arena.
"We are in a very difficult period, you can see that in every single player," admitted striker Mario Gomez with Munich four points behind Dortmund.
"Everyone is carrying the burden."
Schalke are in form following their 4-0 hammering of Wolfsburg last Sunday, while Bayern's goalless draw at Freiburg last Saturday was a precursor to what followed in Basel.
Bayern's season hinges on the next few weeks.
On consecutive weekends, they face Schalke and Leverkusen, who are both in the Bundesliga's top six, then the Champions League return leg against Basel in Munich on March 13 followed by the German Cup semi-final at Moenchengladbach on March 23.
"We've arrived at a very important moment in Bayern Munich's season," chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has told his players.
"I have certain concerns and points to ponder: what has basically happened between Christmas and now?
"You need to be alert, you have to be angry."
The visit of Schalke pits the league's joint top scorers against each other with both Bayern's Gomez and Schalke's Dutch star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar having hit 18 goals in 21 league matches.
While Bayern are faltering, Dortmund are hunting their seventh straight win at home to Hanover.
With a three-point gap at the top, Dortmund are buoyed by the news Japan star Shinji Kagawa is poised to return just ten days after damaging ankle ligaments in training.
Dortmund coped with his absence by grinding out a 1-0 win at strugglers Hertha Berlin last weekend, but Kagawa has been in stellar form of late with four goals in four games before injury struck.
On Saturday, Bayer Leverkusen moved up to fifth in the league with a 2-0 win at Cologne while Bremen dropped to sixth after their 1-0 defeat at home to Nuremberg.
Mainz continued their impressive form to go 11th with a 4-0 trouncing of Kaiserslautern.
Augsburg defeated Hertha Berlin 3-0, putting Berliners into the relegation zone.
Stuttgart are up to eighth after their 4-1 win at home to bottom side Freiburg.
On Friday night, Borussia Moenchengladbach missed out on joining Dortmund on 49 points at the top of the table after a 1-1 draw with improving Hamburg.
Hamburg, steadily improving under the tutelage of Thorsten Fink, has climbed to eighth place.
Bayern Munich v Schalke 04, Borussia Dortmund v Hanover 96
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