Bayern Munich look to continue their dominance of the Bundesliga with victory over Hamburg this weekend, as they begin to prepare for life after Jupp Heynckes.
The veteran coach, who has led to Bayern to what will almost certainly be a sixth consecutive league title this season, appeared to confirm this week that he will not sign a new deal in the summer.
Bayern are 20 points clear at the top of the table and will hope to extend that lead with an eighth consecutive victory over crisis-stricken Hamburg.
Among the chasing pack are Borussia Dortmund, who face surprise packages Eintracht Frankfurt in a key clash in the race for Europe.
Elsewhere, Leon Bailey is expected to return to action for Bayer Leverkusen, while Schalke sporting director faces an emotional homecoming when his side travel to former club Mainz.
– Bayern look to the future –
Bayern Munich’s clash with Hamburg on Saturday looks set to be overshadowed by talk of who will succeed Jupp Heynckes.
In an interview with SportBild magazine this week, Heynckes appeared to confirm that he will not stay on as Bayern head coach beyond this summer.
“I will be 73 in the summer, and you never know how much more time you have,” said Heynckes.
While Bayern could have the Bundesliga title wrapped up in a matter of weeks, Hamburg are staring down the barrel of a first relegation in their history.
With the club seven points adrift of safety, sporting director Jens Todt and chairman Heribert Bruchhagen were fired this week.
– Eagles eye Europe –
Eintracht Frankfurt are looking to muscle in on the Bundesliga’s elite as they prepare to face top six rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Frankfurt were relegation candidates when coach Niko Kovac took over two years ago, but are now firmly in the race for Champions League qualification ahead of this weekend’s clash with Dortmund.
“We have the potential to be a really big club,” said Frankfurt midfielder Makoto Hasebe this week.
– Bailey back in action –
Leon Bailey is expected to return to action for Bayer Leverkusen when they host Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Jamaican starlet was left on the bench during Leverkusen’s win over Wolfsburg last weekend, after struggling with a thigh strain earlier that week.
He is set to return to the starting line-up on Saturday, however, as fifth-placed Leverkusen look to break back into the Champions League spots.
– Heidel homecoming –
It will be a painful homecoming for sporting director Christian Heidel when Schalke travel to Mainz. Heidel spent 24 years as Mainz’s director of sport before moving to Schalke in 2016.
He now returns to face a Mainz side who are struggling to move off the relegation play-off place.
“This will be my most difficult homecoming,” Heidel told Bild. “I know what victory for us might mean for Mainz. There will be two hearts beating in my chest on Friday.”
– Cologne fight on –
Coach Stefan Ruthenbeck has warned his players not to throw in the towel as Cologne move ever closer to relegation. Bottom of the table Cologne travel to Werder Bremen on Monday, as they look to narrow the eight-point gap between themselves and the relegation play-off place.
“Our chances of staying up are obviously getting smaller,” admitted Ruthenbeck. “But we still have a chance. Giving up is forbidden.”
Mainz v Schalke (1930)
Bayern Munich v Hamburg, Hoffenheim v Wolfsburg, Hertha Berlin v Freiburg, Hanover 96 v Augsburg (all 1430), Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1730)
VfB Stuttgart v RB Leipzig (1430), Borussia Dortmund v Eintracht Frankfurt (1700)
Werder Bremen v Cologne (1930)
– Agence France-Presse